Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is a fun holiday tradition for many Americans, but did you ever wonder how those magnificent balloons go from concept to reality? How exactly does a team take a sketch of Kermit the Frog or Garfield and turn it into a gigantic floating creation? Here’s a quick overview.
The Beginning. Whenever the float design team decides to create a new balloon, they start by sketching out a diagram on a piece of paper. Aerospace experts and engineers are then tasked with looking at the design and tweaking it to ensure it’s both safe and will float how it should. After the drawing is finished and the measurements are decided, a team creates a clay sculpture based on the original sketch. This exact replica is used to determine how much fabric is needed, and where the best areas are to place zippers and safety valves.
Testing time. Once a new balloon is ready for inflation, it goes through a series of rigorous tests to ensure that its ready to hit the parade route. Holders practice guiding the balloon, taking note of any tweaks that need to be made. New balloons are then run through a series of inflations and deflations in order to see if it holds air properly. Finally, the team adds paint and other finishing touches if required. Believe it or not, this process can take over 12 months, with hundreds of people collaborating together on one, single balloon.
Parade Day. Once the balloons are tested, and receive their final makeover, it’s showtime. The balloons are inflated in the wee hours of the morning, and teams are assembled in order to march these giant creations through the streets of Manhattan. Although balloons were in the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 1924, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that they became the main attraction. Now designers compete to see who can come with the most fantastic designs. There are even balloon-float hybrids now. Who knows, in the future they might even become holographic.
For more fun facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, follow the link here. We hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving, and can’t thank you enough for your support of McNeil Engineering throughout the year.