The Macy’s Parade has been a Thanksgiving tradition since the 1920s. Through the years, however, there have been a number of mishaps with the giant helium balloons – some comical and some tragic. Here are ten such incidents.
1. Kathleen Caronna might want to think about buying a lucky horseshoe or something. First, in 1997, she was the victim of the infamous Cat in the Hat incident. When the Cat balloon got swept astray of the parade route by high winds, it ran into a lamp post and knocked it down – right in to Ms. Caronna, who was in a coma for a month afterward. She sued the city, Macy’s, and the lamp post manufacturer for $395 million and settled for an undisclosed amount. But that’s not all. In 2006, a plane carrying Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor crashed into the Belaire Apartments building. Caronna’s apartment was one of the ones hit, although she wasn’t home at the time. Still: weird.
2. In 1986, there were two incidents: a 61-year-old bagpiper had a fatal heart attack while marching in the parade, and a spectator fell out the fourth story window he was watching from and landed on someone below.
3. In 1942, the parade was cancelled and the balloons were reduced to rubber for the war efforts. The Red Cross War Fund of Greater New York received a check for $12 for the 650 pounds of rubber.
4. In 1957, a downpour caused the hat on the Popeye balloon to fill up with rain. The added weight made the balloon veer off course, and eventually the cap could hold no more water and dumped gallons and gallons on surprised spectators. I think it’s rather fitting for a man of the sea, myself.
5. In 1963, the parade was nearly cancelled because of JFK’s extremely recent death. It ended up carrying on, but all of the flags in the parade were adorned with seven-foot black streamers. Lyndon B. Johnson actually encouraged the company to go ahead with the show in an effort to try to help Americans through their grief.
6. In 1993, the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon hit a lamppost (dang lampposts) and basically exploded. Part of the lamppost fixture fell and broke the shoulder of an off-duty policeman standing below. Picture from Wikipedia user Sullynyflhi.
7. In 2006, two sisters were attacked by M&Ms. The ropes of the 515-pound balloon promoting the tasty chocolate morsels got caught up on – yes – a lamppost. Neither of the girls were hurt too badly – just some minor scrapes and bruises. In exchange for their ordeal, they received V.I.P. seats in the grandstand and a lifetime supply of M&Ms (that’s 384 packets every year, in case you’re curious).
8. In 1936, the Father Diedrich Knickerbocker balloon deflated when his nose sprung a leak.
9. In 1956, the parade was a total bust. Every single balloon (there were only three that year due to a helium shortage) got flattened by high winds.
10. Finally, 1995 was not the best year the parade ever had. A woman who was seven months pregnant was injured when a float knocked a traffic light into her. (Luckily, her injuries were minor.) Another lady fell through a subway grate. And a group of anti-fur protesters stripped down to nothing but Santa hats and tried to join the parade. They were arrested for public lewdness and indecent exposure.
There are a lot more interesting facts where that came from – watch for a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade quiz later this week! Maybe you can enjoy it over your seventh slice of pumpkin pie.
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