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Wind spoils Wild Thing debut in Macy's parade

torn balloon
Wind knocked The Wild Thing balloon into a lamppost  
November 26, 1998
Web posted at: 1:12 p.m. EST (1812 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Organizers of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade faced weather challenges on Thursday, reminiscent of last year's, when a gust of wind knocked a large balloon into a lamppost at 77th and Central Park West.

No one was injured, but the balloon, dubbed The Wild Thing, suffered a 10-foot gash in its side and had to be removed from the parade.

The parade, which began shortly after 9 a.m. EST at the American Museum of Natural History, had been under way more than an hour when the incident happened.

The giant balloon, based on the 1963 children's book "Where the Wild Things Are," written by Maurice Sendak, was one of three balloons making debuts in the 72nd annual holiday parade.

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Parade organizers and a mayoral committee have spent the past year revising safety issues surrounding Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade, hoping to avoid repeating last year's incident in which The Cat in the Hat balloon was pushed by a wind gust into a lamp post. A woman was seriously injured by falling debris from the post.

Kathleen Caronna, a Manhattan resident, suffered a skull fracture 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 back won't be back due to size restrictions imposed 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.

Balloon debuts

Babe joins the parade this year  

In addition to The Wild Thing, two other balloons were making debuts in Thursday's parade: Babe, based on the pig from the movie of the same name, and Dexter, the cartoon boy genius.

Other character balloons 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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