Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Gets All Clear [Gallery]

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons still made their way through the streets of New York City, despite forecasts of high winds that threatened to ground them.

  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc
  • Photo: Macy's IncPhoto: Macy's Inc

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began its spectacular promenade through Manhattan as scheduled Thursday, despite any high winds that had threatened to ground its massive balloons for the first time in more than 40 years.

New York City officials have been monitoring the wind, because strong breezes could mean that Spider-Man will not soar and Woodstock from “Peanuts” may not get his bird’s-eye view. There were fears the balloons could be grounded if windy conditions from a storm that snarled holiday travel along the East Coast pick up.

However, early Thursday the New York Police Department decided that the winds were calm enough for the 16 giant character balloons to lift off. New York Police determined that the balloons would have to fly five feet lower than if there was no wind at all.

The early meteorological forecast had called for sustained winds of more than 20 mph and gusts exceeding 30 mph. The parade’s balloons are not allowed to fly if winds are higher than 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph

The rule was adopted after the 1997 parade, when fierce winds caused the Cat in the Hat balloon to careen into a lamppost, sending debris to the ground that left one spectator with critical head injuries. The same year, police stabbed the Barney balloon into a flat, rubbery mess after it also threatened to become a danger in winds that exceeded 40 mph, reports the LA Times.

Forecasting winds in the city is challenging because of the “canyon effect,” with the tall buildings along the parade route creating a tunnel, said Joe Picca, a meteorologist at the Weather Service.

This year, about 3.5 million spectators who gather to watch the annual affair could expect to see 16 huge 16 balloons, all of which spent the night weighted down with sandbags and trussed like turkeys on two streets at the start of the parade route. Most are three to five stories long and more than 30 feet wide. People will also enjoy numerous floats, 900 clowns and 40 smaller balloons, said Amy Kule, the parade’s executive producer.

Mr. Kule said balloon handlers were trained throughout the year on how to maneuver the inflatable behemoths. They must attend a balloon class and drills, be physically fit and weigh more than 125 pounds.

The parade was first held in 1924 using live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Three years later,

Felix the Cat became the first balloon floated at the parade, which begins at Central Park West and 77th Street and makes its way into midtown Manhattan. About 30 floats are also part of the parade, along with marching bands and entertainers.

Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were unaffected by the weather.

Jim Leyland, former manager of the Detroit Tigers, served as grand marshal of that city’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which is billed as the nation’s second largest, behind New York’s. Revellers braved snow showers and slick roads.

In Washington on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama pardoned two 17-kg turkeys named Popcorn and Caramel, fulfilling the annual presidential tradition.

In a holiday edition of his weekend radio and internet address, Obama gave thanks for the country’s founders, the generations who followed, and members of the military, and their families, for the sacrifices they make.

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