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Strong winds could ground largest Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons

By Ray Sanchez and Jason Carroll, CNN
updated 7:18 PM EST, Wed November 27, 2013
<a href='http://social.macys.com/parade/?cm_mmc=VanityUrl-_-parade-_-n-_-n#/home' target='_blank'>The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,</a> as much a holiday tradition as turkey, football and dinner table debates, celebrates its 87th anniversary with a host of new floats and balloons that will begin to make their way down New York City streets Thanksgiving morning. Finn &amp; Jake from the popular Cartoon Network show "Adventure Time" will appear this year. The balloon is three stories tall and requires 90 balloon handlers. Take a look back at the other star-studded balloons that have included more than 100 of the worlds most famous characters. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as much a holiday tradition as turkey, football and dinner table debates, celebrates its 87th anniversary with a host of new floats and balloons that will begin to make their way down New York City streets Thanksgiving morning. Finn & Jake from the popular Cartoon Network show "Adventure Time" will appear this year. The balloon is three stories tall and requires 90 balloon handlers. Take a look back at the other star-studded balloons that have included more than 100 of the worlds most famous characters.
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Finn & Jake: 2013
Felix the Cat: 1927
Dog: 1929
Mickey Mouse: 1934
Officer SOS 13: 1937
Superman: 1939
Eddie Cantor: 1940
Uncle Sam: 1940
Elf gnome: 1947
Mighty Mouse: 1951
Popeye: 1957
Donald Duck: 1962
Sinclair Oil Dinosaur: 1963
Underdog: 1965
Aviator Snoopy: 1968
Kermit the Frog: 1977
Woody Woodpecker: 1982
Garfield: 1984
Woodstock: 1988
Bugs Bunny: 1989
Bart Simpson: 1990
Izzy the 1996 Atlanta Olympics mascot: 1993
Blues Clues: 1999
Ask Jeeves: 2000
Pikachu: 2001
SpongeBob SquarePants: 2004
Scooby Doo: 2005
Buzz Lightyear: 2008
Pillsbury Doughboy: 2009
Tim Burton's "B": 2011
Elf on the Shelf: 2012
Toothless from "How to train your dragon": 2013
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The official who decides whether the balloons will fly is optimistic they will
  • High winds could force the largest balloons out of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Past incidents in high winds have caused injury when balloons hit lamposts

(CNN) -- A blustery Thursday could mean more than canceled flights and frustrated travelers -- it could result in the grounding of the biggest attractions at the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Winds greater than 23 mph and gusts of 34 mph would keep SpongeBob, Snoopy, Pikachu and the rest of Macy's helium-packed behemoths firmly on the ground.

New York officials set guidelines on balloon size and wind speeds after a Cat in the Hat balloon struck a lamp post on Central Park West in 1997, knocking loose a piece and injuring four people, including a woman who spent more than three weeks in a coma. In 2005, an M&M balloon knocked a light pole on two sisters.

"Winds are going to be critical," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Weather threatens to ground parade

Parade coming with a side of controversy

Thursday's forecast calls for northwest winds in the 14 to 24 mph range, with gusts up to 40 mph, said Vaccaro.

But at least one official was optimistic the balloons would be allowed to fly.

"It looks good. It looks very good," said New York Police Department Patrol Chief James Hall, who will make the call.

The decision on floating the 16 giant balloons will be made early Thursday, according to a statement from Macy's: "A determination is made on their inclusion based on real-time weather data on parade morning and not forecasts, so it's not helpful to discuss it now."

Others -- from New York's police commissioner to travelers visiting the city for the parade -- were discussing it.

"We came all the way from Puerto Rico to see the parade," Jose Ramirez, standing with his sons on the parade route, told CNN. "It would be a disappointment if we can't see the balloons."

One holiday tradition related to the Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on as planned -- the parade-eve inflating of balloons in the vicinity of the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

"The balloons aren't about Thanksgiving," said Michellian Findley. "It's about fellowship, family and just being thankful."

Only in New York would each giant parade balloon be assigned a police sergeant as an escort to measure wind speed and conditions.

"We've had several meetings," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "We have instruments that give us the crosswind measurements. We've done a lot of training on this."

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