The old routines of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have gone completely awry

The entertainment department of the New York Times has set its sights on the most notorious events of the holiday season. In an exhaustive new story, Thursday’s piece cited more than 100 balloon mishaps during decades of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

To be fair, when this reporter was growing up, the balloon fickleness was a theme song: On “The Hanukkah Song,” two dreidel-dangling balloons fell. “Grinch” and “Miracle on 34th Street” both fell during the parade. “Panda Bear” made it to a full ten seconds before an inline skater rider attached to his side sliced the circle apart.

But current conditions have changed, with balloon brawls breaking out in front of literally millions. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also urged that those who dump garbage on the Brooklyn Bridge be blocked from view of the parade. NBC recently announced that it will no longer allow the balloons in NYC, but won’t skip the parade as its standard programming. No numbers were given on the number of balloons, but it’s certainly more than a dozen, with extended float sections, huge balloons and associated float “gear” (not to mention 9,000 float workers).

So, how did all this happen, since nothing ever seems to go right for these hot-air objects? The 2010 parade was in the midst of an annual survey to decide on a new parade theme, when “Hannah Montana” rocketed to the top of the list in a post from 2009 about the historical parade’s evolving meaning. Some believe she is really the real reason it’s gotten so darn hot this week.

And yet here we are, more than a half century after the very first balloon accident, and pylons remain and large balloons all around:

Some other storylines from Wednesday’s saga, from a description of the parade’s era of New York Dadaism (“A dilapidated balloon hovers among an array of large models dangling from the Petco Garden Roof, as models prove to be the most forbidding thing to watch in the parade since the so-called Balloon Hotel. The urban landscape has become a fitting backdrop for the parade’s artless look.”):

The parade also has history with some of its strangest participants: In the 1930s, hundreds of people took odd jobs in Coney Island to decorate balloons for the parade. In the early years, Halloween revellers were invited to erect tubes with propped up balloons in their yards in the days leading up to the parade, too, and a record number of balloons were dropped from the hotel and car, across the East River and into The Docks in Brooklyn as parade day approached. One year, a balloon that rose in a stunt was accidentally blown over a Sanitation Department turnout box in Coney Island. A year later, people tossed balloons in the parade and tried to start a bonfire. And, in 1943, as German bombing in Europe wound down, “it became clear that there were bombs landing every hour or so along the route — a few bullets stuck thin balloons over one stretch.” (One place it couldn’t land was at The Docks, where the park manager was less concerned with marauding Germans than he was with sickly ducks.)

Plus, of course, there’s always next year.

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