Inflation Deflation — Covid Cancels a Classic Upper West Side Event


Photo by Scott Lynch.

By Amelia Roth-Dishy

In a normal year, the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving marks a (literally) buoyant neighborhood tradition: the blowing up of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade giant balloons. From 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., the inflation operation sets up shop on 77th and 81st Streets between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West and the surrounding side streets. Whoever finds themselves on the Upper West Side on a Wednesday night — mostly Upper West Siders, that is — can gawk as the popular balloons grow slowly into their massive airborne forms. In the morning, the balloons and their many handlers turn right onto Central Park West to begin their long, festive march downtown.

Alas, this year will be different. In accordance with COVID-19 safety measures, Macy’s has reconstituted the event as a TV-only presentation filmed at Herald Square. The parade route is scratched. The signature balloons will somehow make an appearance, albeit an automated one — “[they] will be flown without the traditional 80-100 handlers and instead employ an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYCDOT and NYPD,” Macy’s said in a press release. But the so-called “Giant Balloon Inflation public event” will not occur.

We hope the balloons know that they will always be welcomed on 77th and 81st Streets with open arms. Until then, Upper West Siders can wave to their favorite inflatable characters through the screen on Thanksgiving Day, from 9 a.m. to noon on NBC.

NEWS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. Truth and Reason says:

      And good riddance. The crowds and police presence for that thing had grown insufferable. You couldn’t even get home, even with id. You try living at the corner of 79th and Amsterdam and see how much you like it.

      • YIMBY says:

        You know you can move to the county if you don’t like people, noise and traffic. This is what makes NYC great: people, action, excitement. If it’s too much for you I heard there are some good deals in west Texas or Alaska.

      • irish says:

        this is just not true. I live closer to where they are actually blown up and never had any issues

      • Humbug Bah! says:

        Bah Humbug!

      • charles becker says:

        “. You couldn’t even get home, even with id”
        This statement on the surface sounds false.
        However it is the truth.

        A similar incident happened to me in Chinatown during the New Year. The police office gave me the lame excuse that other people would get upset if he let me through.
        Thanks for letting readers know of your experience.

    2. Clars says:

      Yes, it’s a hassle…and there’s joy in the air. I live on the 77th ballon block and have annually appreciated the children’s excitement, the enthusiasm of the handlers, and the ability of those balls of commercialism and helium to awaken the spirit of that awe-struck 6 year old that hides in this 71 year old cynic.

      • LZ says:

        hear hear!

      • Paul on W 67 says:

        I feel the same way. Although I liked it better when it was just a neighborhood secret (damn you, Internet). I used to love going to watch the kids’ excitement, and I’d get pretty excited too. And for some reason, a hot cocoa afterward just seemed to be required.

    3. Joanne the miscontent says:

      I was telling coworkers yesterday how I complained and cursed last year when I wanted to run in the park that night and it took forever to get through the crowds. And again complained the next day when trying to meet friends for Thanksgiving lunch and again had to fight through the crowds. But don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be complaining again next year when the crowds return!