Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons the night before Thanksgiving, 2017

These are photos and a video I took of the yearly ritual of inflating the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons. The parade mobilizes and begins on the west side of Central Park. The Balloons are spread out and inflated with helium on the streets adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History, 77th and 81st street. In past years I have hopped the subway, gone above ground at 81rst and immediately seen blue tarmacs with the giant colorful characters being inflated and bobbing in the wind. This year, I was surprised at the enormous crowd. I used to think this was a sort of a New Yorker secret, that you could go and get close to all of the balloons the night before, but apparently the word is out. Now the line forms at 74th street and it takes an hour and a half before you can even see a glimpse, as these photos will attest. Hope you enjoy.


My first job in New York City was working in the wardrobe department of the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I helped prepare the costumes for the 3,000 participants that populate the parade. These are clowns, and costume groups that fit with all of the special floats, and also the jumpsuits that are worn by all of the balloon handlers. I remember spending several days just steaming and ironing purple overalls for the balloon handlers who would be responsible for the "Barney" Balloon. This was 1995.

Since then I have been a part of the parade in many other ways. I've puppeteered for several different floats, including one year when I helped operate these massive 15 foot tall characters for the Jamaican entry of the parade. 

So much energy went into working the parade that there was no thought to what would happen for the actual Turkey Day dinner, so it became a ritual to go for sushi and a movie after the parade. I continued the ritual yesterday, but I still had a chance to catch a glimpse of the parade though it was mostly obscured by New York's finest sanitation vehicles.

I watched city crews replacing the lamp post that was removed to make way for the floats and balloons.

 And I did visit Macy*s at Herald Square at 34th street. I know that Christmas is over commercialized but I do have some sympathy for Macy*s since they are struggling to stay afloat financially (no pun intended). I shudder to think of this 90 year ritual ending due to online stories destroying retail. When I worked for the Macy*s parade we were set up in a closed down Macy*s department store in Newark. It was a giant building that took up the whole block, but it had been closed for years, yet inside there were still floors with merchandise. Moth-balled and frozen in time. I don't have to work hard to imagine the sight of the Macy*s at Herald square, boarded up and abandoned. I have already experienced a premonition of it in Newark. One wonders if Amazon, or maybe Wal*mart would pick up the holiday responsibility. So even with the criticisms of Christmas commercialization that were made in the classic Peanuts cartoon, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" one should, at least, thank companies like Macy*s for spending the money to put up decorations and make the season sparkle and light up the cold dark Winter.

I can only hope that some traditions don't go away, and that next year someone will think to at least put decorations on the sanitation trucks!


RecentRonald Binion