By Michael McDowell
Joy in the air and an exuberant crowd in the streets marked the return of an Upper West Side classic: the annual inflating of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, which took place on 77th and 81st Streets adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday.
Many curious onlookers observed the truly unusual spectacle.
One-by-one, numerous inflation team professionals in colorful jumpsuits connected helium-containing hoses to shapeless tarps, turning them, gradually, into magnificent animals, characters, and other alluring inflatables.
Until Thursday morning when they are marched down Central Park West, 59th Street, and 6th Avenue to Herald Square, the balloons are kept in place by the weight of hundreds of sandbags.
This year, familiar characters include Smokey the Bear, Snoopy, Papa Smurf, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sinclair’s Dino.
Baby Yoda, however, appears to be a new favorite.
Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-Elect Eric Adams were there, and were attended to by a herd of city press. The rest of us were more interested in the balloons.
“I think people are ready to do something, to see something kind of grand,” a crowd control professional who declined to give his name told the Rag. “Last year was really depressing.”
Although among the observers were many children, the Rag was struck by the composition of the crowd—mostly adults.
“I have noticed more adults than children,” he nodded. “And a lot more locals than tourists.”
Near Central Park West, two inflation team pilots kibitzed. One had worked the parade for 10 years; the other, 20 years. In addition to the inflation, both would walk in the parade tomorrow.
What’s it like to walk in the parade—just another day at work?
“It’s the best day of the year.”
The Macy’s Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. EST Thursday.