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Macy's presents safer parade

Macy's kicks off its 72nd Thanksgiving Day Parade  
November 26, 1998
Web posted at: 9:46 a.m. EST (1446 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Spectators lining New York's streets should feel safer Thursday, as marching bands, giant balloons and floats make their way along the route for the 72nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The parade began about 9 a.m. EST at the American Museum of Natural History. It goes south on Central Park West to Columbus Circle, and then south on Broadway, through Times Square, ending in front of Macy's flagship store in Herald Square.

Parade organizers and a mayoral committee have spent the past year figuring out how to avoid a repeat of the disaster that occurred last year, when high winds caused the Cat in the Hat balloon to knock a lamppost into the crowd.

Kathleen Caronna, a Manhattan resident, suffered a skull fracture from falling debris and was in a coma for nearly a month.

Caronna, who is still recovering and says the accident caused permanent brain damage, filed a $395 million lawsuit against the city, Macy's and the lamppost manufacturer.

Balloon-handling physics

Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat balloon has been retired after last year's accident

This year, balloons can be no larger than 70 feet high, 78 feet long and 40 feet wide. That meant bidding farewell to a few lumbering creatures: the Pink Panther, Woody Woodpecker and the Cat in the Hat.

A Macy's representative says parade volunteers, who in past years have spent about two hours in training, have been undergoing rigorous training sessions in recent weeks. Some of the changes for volunteers include a physical fitness test, lessons in the physics of balloon-handling and a free three-month gym membership to help them shape up.

Technical changes this year include removal of the extended arms of the lampposts along the route, pruning of trees along Central Park and having a meteorologist on hand.

In addition, each balloon is attached to two 800-pound vehicles which pilot them along the route. The balloons are being managed by balloon handling teams, consisting of 12 leaders.

The balloon leaders include a pilot, an overall leader, a captain, two drivers and a police representative who has jurisdiction to remove the balloon from the parade at any time.

Volunteers are handling 12 balloons, including three balloons making their parade debut.

Babe, Dexter and Wild Thing

The new balloons are Babe, based on the pig from the movie of the same name; Dexter, the cartoon boy genius and Maurice Sendak's Wild Thing.

Other character balloons that will be in this year's parade include Sesame Street's Big Bird, the cartoon cat Garfield, the purple dinosaur Barney, the children's book aardvark character Arthur, and Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit.

In total, the festivities feature 12 giant balloons, 16 novelty balloons, 18 floats, five Macy's "Falloons," six toy floats, 12 marching bands, 38 clown groups, and many stars from stage, screen, and television.

The tradition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924, with a handful of Macy's workers who wished to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season with a parade through central Manhattan.

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