Snoopy meets Daft Punk: Part Five Balloons Aloft

So fellow travelers, with the Macy’s parade well  underway it wont be long ’til we hear the band, but first a few balloons will pass our corner.


There was a tangible surge of excitement as the crowds spotted movement up the road. The cheers spread along the curb just ahead of the first wave of rollerblading clowns. One of them took a pretty good tumble, rolled over and popped right up waving at everyone as if it was all part of the routine.  The clowns slapped hands with people, tossed confetti and handed out balloons to kids.


A sudden roar of engines startled a rooftop flock of pigeons into flight


The police motorcade headed our way.  Behind them we spotted the bright yellow Macy’s stars with the massive Thomas the Tank Engine looming behind them.



and, once the motorcycles quieted their engines as they approached Columbus Circle, we could hear the first strains of  a band playing.  Western Carolina University’s Marching Band, over 500 strong  and sounding it strode down the street.


The thing about band parents is we cheer for any and all bands.  Even during competition season, while we may cheer louder for our own band, we still cheer for every  performance.  Baldwinsville’s field band show earned standing ovations at several competitions. We got so excited for this first band that our visitor from London asked if this was our band. Nope, we assured him the best was yet to come.

Gazing uptown  we scanned for the incoming balloons ( we’d received an update that the kids were on the move), some of us thought we could see the large white head of the Wimpy Kid balloon far behind Thomas, a football and what appeared to be some pumpkin balloons.


But since we were after all watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course Turkey comes first.


Honestly the bird and his company of pilgrims were dwarfed by Thomas the Tank Engine cheerfully looming large right behind them.  I had to be sure to get a shot for the young son of my friend and Bedlam Farm photography mentor Jeff Anderson.


Watching the parade on television I always knew the balloons were big, but seeing them pass right overhead I realized how massive they truly are.  Thomas towers several stories high and easily half a city block long, although Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon is currently the longest balloon.


The number of handlers needed for each balloon ranges from 40 up to 90. It’s a tricky job requiring training and a code of whistled signals which direct the team when and how fast to walk and how much to pull in or let out their ropes to control the balloons. Every handler is either a Macy’s employee or sponsored by one and once on the team, handlers can return every year, so the handlers are a coveted spot.  Which might explain why grown men seem perfectly content to wear Hello Kitty “pinnies”.


The chop-chop hum of a helicopter overhead drew our eyes skyward.


Later, we would discover we could go on line and look for photos of ourselves in the crowd, captured by this aerial photography unit. There’s an entire industry stemming from photos participants can order after the parade.

When I returned my focus to the street uptown I gasped. It turns out the large white head we had spotted earlier was in fact Snoopy !  and my heart skipped a beat.


Suddenly I was ten years old,  glued to the TV in my parents living room watching for the debut appearance of the Snoopy Balloon. I do believe I may have  bounced up and down, as much as my frozen feet would allow, and then held my breath as my childhood favorite drew closer



and drifted



right overhead…..


I noticed some drops of water in my shots  (look closely at the buildings in the photos )   I muttered some warnings to the weather gods about the deal we struck where slogging through yesterday’s steady precipitation was repaid with dry marching conditions this morning.  Not surprisingly whatever was sprinkling from the clouds ceased within seconds. Of course Mother Nature would know better than to mess with band moms. Besides it wasn’t only our kids; this band from the Bahamas would not have been able to condition for cold weather as our kids had.


These kids danced their way down Central Park West Drive as if it was 70 and sunny.


Their joy was so inspiring I have to say for a few minutes we all felt a warm tropical breeze.  The Bahamians shown here were actually a few floats after our kids, so the music we now heard coming down the street after Snoopy was in fact the high school band from Utah, whose school colors happen to also be black, red and white.


At this point we were beginning to wonder whether we had miscalculated where in the lineup the kids would be until we spotted it, there uptown….see it?……behind some sort of blue balloon…


yet another big white head headed our way and this time we knew exactly which balloon which it was.  The Baldwinsville Marching Bees were just minutes away.

(To be continued)







Deborah H Rahalski

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