Blowing up Balloon for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

The blocks of West 77th and 81st Streets have become the family place to be each year the day before Thanksgiving. The phenomenon that New Yorkers and visitors alike have come to love is undergoing a change. Traditionally an evening event, "Balloon Inflation," the coming to life of Macy's giant helium Balloons, will now be held at a new time for more family fun! Viewing hours will be from 3:00 PM until 10:00 PM on Wednesday, November 22nd.

Beginning at 3:00 PM, spectators wishing to enter the magical behind-the-scenes world of Macy's "Balloon Inflation" may enter the exhibit on the northeast corner of 77th St. and Columbus Avenue. There will be no other points of entry. Entry to "Balloon Inflation" will close to the public at 10:00 PM.

"The excitement surrounding the Inflation grows each year with more families coming out to experience this grand event. By moving the starting time from 6:00 PM to 3:00 PM, many more families will have the opportunity and time to come watch the giant Balloons come to life and enjoy their time together," says Jean McFaddin, Producer/Director of the 74th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "We are excited about the prospect of bringing more smiles to both the young and the young-at-heart."

Preparations begin as early as daylight on Thanksgiving eve for the Balloons annual holiday jaunt down Broadway as an army of Macy's officials gear up for the next 36 hours. The large Balloon line-up 14 giant character Balloons and 17 novelty Balloons in all takes up two full city blocks to accommodate their expansive inflated dimensions. By mid-morning, the deflated Balloons arrive in their crates and enormous canvas drop cloths are laid out to cover all of 77th and 81st Streets, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History.

The magic begins as the Balloons are carefully unrolled onto the ground cloths, then tethered with nets and anchored with sandbags placed at five-foot intervals. These retaining nets are crucial to this operation as they prevent the Balloons from taking off as they are being inflated. Macy's technicians and crews fill the giant Balloons with helium (from four industrial tank trailers supplying almost a quarter million cubic feet), which is pumped into the separate compartments of each Balloon. Cheers and applause echo from the passing crowd as they marvel at the spectacle of each Balloon being magically brought to life.

At 10:00 PM, the crowds depart from the inflation exhibit site and these gentle giants settle in for a late autumn slumber. But, at 6:00 AM the next morning they are awakened by Macy's technicians, whose priority it is to top off each Balloon with a final blast of helium to ensure a successful flight down the line of march. Finally, the first Balloons round the corner of Central Park West and 77th & 81st Streets and prepare to march on, as eagerly awaiting children of all ages hold their breath for that magical moment and the clarion call of those famous words, "Let's have a Parade!"