MACY’S annual Thanksgiving Parade has been a staple since the 1920s as millions of revelers line the streets of New York to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
Bosses replaced live animals with balloons in 1928 and hundreds of inflatables depicting iconic cartoon characters have been used throughout its 10-decade history.
The likes of Popeye the Sailor, Kermit the Frog, and Sonic the Hedgehog have all made an appearance.
SpongeBob Squarepants, Ronald McDonald, and Stuart – the popular one-eyed Minion from the hit movie Despicable Me 2 – are among the characters set to feature in this year’s Thanksgiving Parade.
But, despite its illustrious history, it has seen a series of infamous incidents from Sonic the Hedgehog bursting to a cat that inadvertently almost caused a plane crash.
The Sun takes a look back at some of the incidents that unfolded at the festive event.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Back in 1993, the Sonic balloon was plagued by strong winds, which caused the inflatable character to crash into a pole on West 58th street.
Sonic the Hedgehog was not strong enough for the wind speeds and got hit in the left eye with a lamp post.
The impact caused a section of the balloon to tear and a part of the streetlight to fall into the parade-goers.
Both a 10-year-old girl and an off-duty police officer were injured in the balloon mishap.
Additionally, one woman was hit with helium fumes. All three victims were treated on the scene.
According to Mike Goldenthal, who saw the incident from his apartment, the big blue hedgehog “smashed into the lamp post, broke the lamp post, and a large part of the lamp went and, it looked like it smacked this fella on the back. “
The balloon was immediately deflated and did not finish marching in the parade.
In November 1932, a 60-foot Tom Kat balloon almost caused a plane to crash.
Bosses frantically spread the word to New York news outlets to warn pilots to keep away from the large inflatables in the run-up to the parade.
But, one plane did not steer clear of trouble.
The shocking incident happened during a time when Macy’s would release the balloons into the sky at the end of the parade — something which has not been done since the nearly fatal event.
However, people were given rewards if they located the balloons afterwards.
About 30 minutes after the inflatables were released, a flying instructor and her student flew their plane into the yellow-striped Tom Kat balloon, The Hatching Cat explains.
The plane ultimately went into a tailspin after fabric from the balloon covered the aircraft’s left wing.
But as the plane was approximately 250 feet above rooftops over Queens, the plane was able to resume flying and land safely.
CAT IN THE HAT
Meanwhile, Tom Kat wasn’t the only feline to cause a problem during the annual march.
In 1997, the Cat in the Hat balloon hit a lamppost while passing an intersection at 72nd Street and Central Park West.
The unexpected impact prompted the cat’s metal arm to tear off.
And the lamppost, which weighed about 100 pounds, fell and injured four people — with the worst injury being that a woman nearly died.
One of the victims, Kathy Caronna, fell into a coma that lasted for a month.
A neurosurgeon at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center branded her wound as “one of the worst crush injuries of the skull I have ever seen”, according to the New York Times.
They added: ‘I’ve seen people thrown out of automobiles looking like this, and none of them have survived.”
Caronna successfully sued Macy’s after the incident.
BARNEY THE DINOSAUR
Barney the Dinosaur was also plagued during the 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A gust of wind pushed the purple dinosaur into a lamppost — making it very difficult for the balloon handlers to maintain control over the large figure.
It took minutes for handlers to try and take control of Barney the Dinosaur.
Police officers eventually had to surround Barney the Dinosaur and stab the balloon with knives.
Spectators watched as the massive balloon deflated in front of their eyes.
Footage of the incident was shared to YouTube years later, titled: “Thanksgiving ’97. The day Barney was killed.”
KERMIT THE FROG
In 1985, Kermit the Frog’s stomach was shredded after making contact with a tree during heavy rains.
The accident took place as the balloon flew over Columbus Circle.
Despite the air getting let out of the balloon, the big green frog finished “marching” in the parade and looked “looked as if he passed out,” host Pat Sajak said.
The frog concluded the parade in Herald Square as planned, but only about three feet off the ground.
FIGURE WITH A HEART
In 2008, a balloon created to look like Keith Haring’s most popular work got into some trouble during the parade.
The balloon — dubbed “Figure with a Heart” — depicted a black-outlined white figure holding a red heart.
As the balloon made its way down the street, it hit the NBC Broadcast booth.
After striking the booth, shocking TV hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, and Al Roker. Thankfully, there were no injuries.
In the 1956 Macy’s Parade, Mighty Mouse came very close to crashing at Columbus Circle.
As winds were measured to be peaking at 45 miles per hour, the inflatable slowly dropped to the ground after its right arm and ear lost helium.
It deflated just moments before it was to reach the Macy’s store.
Bosses decided to retire the balloon after the infamous moment.
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