The puppeteer who brought balloons to the Thanksgiving Day Parade The 1927 Felix the Cat balloon. One of the first balloons to be carried down Broadway on Thanksgiving Day. (Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade/Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
The puppeteer who brought balloons to the Thanksgiving Day Parade
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The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (then known as the Macy's Christmas Parade) was held in 1924. It culminated in front of Macy's department store in New York City. There, elaborate holiday window displays were unveiled.
 
Thousands gathered to see the displays. They were designed by Anthony Frederick Sarg. He was a noted puppeteer and theatrical designer. Sarg was also the artistic director/mastermind of the parade. During the fourth annual Macy's Christmas Parade in 1927, he introduced the enormous inflatable cartoons and caricatures that would become almost synonymous with the annual holiday tradition.
 
Creativity was in Sarg's genes. Born in Germany, his father was an artist, his grandfather a wood carver, and his grandmother was a painter. They gave the young Sarg a collection of mechanical toys that may have inspired the imagination of the burgeoning designer. But it wasn't until he saw a performance by famed puppeteer Thomas Holden, who essentially invented the marionette, that Sarg found his calling. He began experimenting with puppet designs and stagings around 1917. He eventually earned fame for his particularly sophisticated puppet shows. These included performances of Faust and Don Quixote.
 
After World War I, Sarg moved to New York City. He gained a reputation as a practical joker, the life of the party and a tireless worker. In his various ventures, the designer, inventor and illustrator worked on cartoons, children's books, mechanical toys, advertising and of course, window displays and balloons.
 
These first parade balloons were filled with oxygen, not helium. They were propped up by teams of puppeteers. These usually were Macy's employees. They were drafted into parade service. These balloons, such as 1920s biggest cartoon star Felix the Cat, were cruder and smaller than today's Godzilla-like monsters. They charmed and captivated the throngs of onlookers who came to ring in the holiday season.
 
Other early balloons included a 20-foot-long elephant and a 60-foot-long tiger. There was even an enormous hummingbird. In 1928, the parade culminated with a release of the now-helium-filled balloons into the skies above the city. The stunt was a crowd-pleaser. The following year, the balloons were designed with release valves to make their ascent easier. Macy's offered rewards for their capture and return.
 
That tradition continued until 1932. That is when a daredevil pilot thought it would be fun to capture the balloons with her biplane. She nearly crashed when the rubberized canvas wrapped itself around the plane's wing.
 
The rubberized silk balloons were produced by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. Their archives at the University of Akron include some amazing pictures of these early behemoths.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why aren't these kinds of balloons used in all parades?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (61)
  • plaura-dav
    11/16/2016 - 05:54 p.m.



    In response to "the puppeteers who brought balloons to the thanksgiving day parade," I disagree that they should have done this. One reason I agree is that they are fun and cool to look at. Another reason is that it makes the day and my day to see them. It says in the article that the first parade was held in 1924. A third reason is that they make thanksgiving 10 times as good as it already . Even though some people might not like this, I think
    This is a good idea.

  • jarrod-war
    11/17/2016 - 10:26 a.m.

    these iconic balloons have become such a part of thanksgiving and Christmas. the balloons shouldn't be in all parades because it would ruin the anticipation for Christmas and thanksgiving parades. And if they were in all parades the joy and moments of the parade would be ruined it would just be a normal thing you can see anytime.

  • abbyz1-har
    11/17/2016 - 02:42 p.m.

    It takes a lot of people to hold one balloon. Airplanes can also run into these balloons.

  • jacklynt-ste
    11/17/2016 - 03:32 p.m.

    I personally do not watch the Macy's day parade. If I did watch it though, the balloons would be my favorite part. These gigantic balloons are taking balloons to a whole new level and they are really cool.

  • htaylor-dav
    11/17/2016 - 08:47 p.m.

    This article is talking about a tradition everyone enjoys to watch on Thanksgiving with their families. These balloons are supper big and it is fun to watch the people use the sticks to control the balloons. These balloons should be used in every parade, but they are so huge that some places can't fit them anywhere and it would be a lot harder to control in some places. The idea of the massive balloon characters are amazing and I bet everyone wants to see one in a close parade, not just in the Thanksgiving Parade on a TV, but a lot of places can't do the control of it and there might not be enough room, and talk about the money it would cost to have a 40 ft. Hello Kitty floating down the road in a parade. It would be awesome, but the balloons can break a any time in a place that is not big enough.

  • mterrell-dav
    11/17/2016 - 10:08 p.m.

    In response to "The puppeteer who brought balloons to the Thanksgiving Day Parade".I agree that this will be a fun event for everyone.I disagree that it will be fun for everyone because if you live on that street and you are sleeping it can bother you. Another reason is that it can sometimes be very dangerous. It says in the article "he introduced the enormous inflatable cartoons and caricatures that would become almost synonymous with the annual holiday tradition." The third reason is that if this fell on people could get hurt.Even thogh I think that this could be a really successful event.

  • gn-gai
    11/18/2016 - 09:12 a.m.

    Is not used in all parades because in some states they don't do parades and they don't do those kind of balloons.I wonder why they don't use those balloons?

  • elonz-hyl
    11/18/2016 - 10:58 a.m.

    I honestly really liked this article this article was very cool and interesting i recommend this article to other students.

  • samanthav-hyl
    11/18/2016 - 10:59 a.m.

    i think this article was cool because it is from history and the way they control the balloons is cool!!!!

  • siennaf-hyl
    11/18/2016 - 11:00 a.m.

    I feel like this article needs just a bit more information.But that is just my opinion. ;)

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