Imagine this: You’re attending your favorite holiday parade — maybe it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or maybe it’s a smaller, local event — and you’re having a grand old time, sipping on hot chocolate and taking in the eye-popping procession of baton-twirlers, high school marching bands and D-list celebrities perched atop float after garish float.
And then, from out of nowhere, a hulking figure as tall as a four-story building emerges from around the corner. It’s a giant parade balloon — and it’s out of control. Approaching quickly, the massive balloon sways wildly in the wind and careens into light posts and trees as terrified parade-goers scramble out of its path.
OK, so although this nightmarish scenario is an unlikely one, holiday parade balloons do fail on occasion. And when they do, they fail hard. Whether they’re striking light posts and injuring spectators or simply getting snagged on objects and deflating slowly in front of hundreds of horrified children, the rare parade balloon meltdown is something you are likely never to forget. Ranging from sad to legitimately scary, here are a few holiday parade balloon failures of note:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, 1957
The much beloved annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade had its first major balloon-related incident in 1957, 30 years after the parade’s very first giant helium balloon, Felix the Cat, made its grand debut. Heavy rains plagued the 1957 parade, causing the brimmed hat of the event’s newest towering inflatable, Popeye the Sailor, to fill with water. As a result of his weighed-down headgear, Popeye veered off course while his hat dumped bucket upon bucket of rainwater on unsuspecting parade-goers. (Hey, at least it wasn’t creamed spinach.)
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, 1993
A brief moment of chaos erupted during the 1993 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when high winds caused shoe-wearing video game critter Sonic the Hedgehog to careen into a lamppost and explode. Parts of the lamppost broke off in the collision and struck an off-duty officer, who walked away with minor injuries including a broken shoulder. Rex the Dinosaur was also an unfortunate fatality during the '93 parade, although no police officers, on- or off-duty, were harmed as a result. Aftermath of the carnage can be viewed here.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, 1997
The 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went down in history as one of the annual event’s more havoc-filled editions as NYPD officers were deployed to stab both Barney and the Pink Panther over safety concerns due to high winds. “Barney attacked us," Isabella Fasciano of Hoboken, N.J., told the New York Times. The Cat in the Hat, an out-of-control six-story balloon not preemptively put down by police offers, collided into a lamppost at 72nd Street and Central Park West, causing the fixture’s metal arm to break off and fall to the street. Several spectators were injured in the disturbance, including Kathleen Caronna, who suffered severe head injuries and fell into a month-long coma. And get this: Caronna was the victim of another bizarre accident when New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle flew a small plane into the bedroom of her Manhattan apartment. Caronna was not home at the time.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, 2005
Attack of the chocolate candies! During a particularly blustery Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005, a 515-pound, 50.5-foot-tall polyurethane balloon in the shape of two anthropomorphic M&M candies went on a wild rampage in Times Square, scaring the pants off of chocolate-loving parade-goers and injuring two sisters who were clobbered by debris after the balloon hit a light pole. The incident prompted the city to launch an investigation and further tweak parade balloon safety rules that were introduced after the Cat in the Hat accident. As a result of the traumatic incident, the two sisters reportedly received free M&Ms for life.
Dominion Christmas Parade, Richmond, Va., 2010
Ouch! During an annual Christmas parade in Richmond, Va., Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer suffered a puncture wound straight to the forehead and quickly perished after his handlers were unsuccessful in lowering him so that he could clear a traffic signal. Naturally, the entire deflation debacle was caught by amateur video. Relive the tragedy all over again set to radio reports from the Hindenburg disaster or to the original audio track where nervous chortles quickly turn to shrieks of dismay.
Festival of Trees, Davenport, Iowa, 2010
Because really, there’s nothing more disheartening than watching a giant, helium-filled replica of everyone’s favorite storybook rag doll, Raggedy Ann, get snagged (by her red locks, nonetheless!) on a traffic signal and suffer a very slow and very public death before being dragged away by a bunch of people wearing matching windbreakers and holding strings. Tear.
Raggedy Ann: lsandhaas/YouTube