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
Lexile

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (then known as the Macy's Christmas Parade) was held in 1924. It culminated in front of New York City's Macy's department store. 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 mastermind of the parade. During the fourth annual Macy's Christmas Parade in 1927, he introduced the enormous inflatable cartoons and caricatures. They would become almost synonymous with the annual holiday tradition.
 
Creativity was in Sarg's genes. He was born in Germany. His father was an artist. His grandfather was a wood carver. And his grandmother was a painter. They gave the young Sarg a collection of mechanical toys. These 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. This was 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 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.
 
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. They filled the skies above the city. The stunt was a crowd-pleaser. The following year, the balloons were designed with release valves. These made their ascent easier. Macy's offered rewards for their capture and return.
 
The 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. 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 (41)
  • monicas-lin
    11/18/2016 - 02:26 p.m.

    These are not used in parades because that was a long time ago.

  • aubreyh-hau
    11/21/2016 - 11:16 a.m.

    The balloons aren't used in every parade because then parades wouldn't be fun and joyful and pretty because they use them in every parade. this story was a little bit hard but i really liked it.

  • braydent-hau
    11/21/2016 - 11:27 a.m.

    I like it because I like balloons.

  • josiahj-dob
    11/28/2016 - 09:44 a.m.

    because the macys parade is the most important one

  • saniyar-dob
    11/28/2016 - 09:48 a.m.

    Because if u see them over and over again it is not going to be fun or joyful and sometimes we have parades a lot so that means we will see them a lot.

  • tierag-dob
    11/28/2016 - 10:04 a.m.

    the balloons aren't used in all the parades because they mite be to expensive

  • nenay-dob
    11/28/2016 - 10:47 a.m.

    These kinds of balloons aren't used in other parades because the balloons are really expensive, all the helium in the balloons cost a lot. The balloons wouldn't be as exciting and outstanding as they all ready are, because you would see the balloons at every single parade.

  • taryno-dob
    11/28/2016 - 10:49 a.m.

    Because they are meant for big parades .

  • santanaa-dob
    11/28/2016 - 10:50 a.m.

    The reason that all the balloons in every parade isn't the same is because. Some people celebrate parades with different cartoon balloons we don't even know about.

  • cakiyahk-dob
    11/28/2016 - 11:04 a.m.

    This is a special parade

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