Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade EP Susan Tercero Gives the Inside Scoop on the Balloons

Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon and Spectators
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It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, stuffing…and 60-foot inflatable characters swarming the streets of New York City. For this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, several new balloons, including four elves from the upcoming Netflix movie The Christmas Chronicles, join returning fan favorites such as snowman Olaf from Frozen, SpongeBob SquarePants and Charlie Brown.

Today’s inflatables have come a long way from the whimsical creations of puppeteer Tony Sarg that made their debut in 1927. The original balloons were like giant marionettes — held aloft by poles rather than buoyed by helium, says the parade’s executive producer, Susan Tercero. But even in those early days, famous faces like Felix the Cat floated downtown.

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Martina McBride, Pentatonix, and Rita Ora are also expected to perform.

“The parade is part of pop culture, so the balloons reflect that,” she says. “People expect to recognize the characters.”

Over the years, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and Kermit the Frog have all hovered over the streets of Manhattan. Which ones get to soar on any given year depends on several factors, Tercero says: “Sometimes the balloons are celebrating an anniversary; some might be from a new movie.” Snoopy holds the record for most appearances, with seven versions showing up over 39 years.

Generally, most balloons have a three-year lifespan. “They are inflated and deflated and flown in all weather,” she explains. “But not all balloons are created the same. Technology advances and the intricacy of the balloon can alter how long it lasts.”

The excitement they inspire has no expiration date. Folks line the streets the night before Thanksgiving to watch the balloons inflating, and the all-volunteer teams who wrangle them make the pre-dawn parade prep a party. “It can be freezing and everyone’s happy,” Tercero says. “There’s nothing like it.”

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 22, 9am, NBC