Lots of spectators + huge balloons + autumn weather = the potential for calamity.
- The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924, and the first big ballon—Felix the Cat—debuted three years later. There would be no more giant balloons until 1931, because Felix got tangled in some telephone wires and burst into flames.
- The 1957 parade featured a large Popeye balloon. It rained during the parade and Popeye’s hat filled with water, which caused him to “stumble” off course. The hat dumped rainwater all over members of the crowd. Popeye was allowed to return (with a rainproof hat) the following year.
- The 1986 edition got slammed by terrible weather. As a result, a Raggedy Ann balloon knocked over a lamppost. Betty Boop collapsed mere feet from the finish line, and an inflatable Olive Oyl had an arm ripped off. The parade was particularly humbling for a Superman balloon. One of the reputed Man of Steel’s hands was “eaten” by a tree.
- In 1993, a Sonic the Hedgehog balloon got hit by high winds, collided with a lamppost, and falling debris injured an off-duty police officer. The weather also managed to entangle Spider-Man’s head in some tree branches and caused Bart Simpson’s colossal shirt to be torn open.
- A 2005 incident in Times Square caused a large M&M to hit yet another lamppost. Two young sisters were injured, which led to the incorporation of new safety standards beginning with the 2006 parade.
- The new rules weren’t enough to prevent a balloon from striking NBC’s broadcasting booth in 2008. The hosts inside were knocked off the air for a few minutes. That same year, the Energizer Bunny managed to “escape” once it reached 34th Street.