The 71st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (1997)
Ladies and gentlemen, coming to New York City, this disaster of a parade will let you see your favourite characters getting destroyed by 43 mph winds!
November 27, 1997
The 71st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held on November 27, 1997, in New York City. It is infamous for the amount of balloons that were popped or ruined, and is usually considered the worst parade in history. It was shown live on television on NBC and CBS that same day from 9am to 12 noon, and was hosted by Willard Scott (in his final hosting role), Katie Couric and Al Roker.
High winds of up to 43 mph blew throughout the entire parade, making it very bad weather for the balloons to fly that year.
Five character balloons got destroyed or popped due to the bad weather, which were The Pink Panther, Quik Bunny, Barney the Dinosaur, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Cat in the Hat.
Even the surviving balloons (except for Big Bird, Peter Rabbit and the Rugrats) got damaged in some areas, such as Garfield's tail, Spider-Man's hands, Bumpé's legs, and Arthur's arm and ear.
Some novelty balloons got removed from the parade as well, such as Cloe the Holiday Clown, one of the ABC Bouncing Balls and Flying Fish (who couldn't start her march, due to getting damaged overnight).
Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear almost got popped, due to the winds.
They didn't ground the balloons. This would've been a better idea so nobody would be injured by the balloons, like they did in 1971 after 3 balloons (Happy Dragon, Smokey Bear, and Astronaut Snoopy 1.0) were severely damaged.
Even though the floats didn't get damaged because they weren't balloons, the SnowFamily falloon didn't fair well. The SnowDad in the center got its head ripped off, due to these winds. As a result, he remained decapitated for the rest of the parade.
The Cat in the Hat had the worst accident in all of the parade, and possibly in all of parade history. He got blown into a streetlight, which snapped from its hinges because of its tall size, causing it to be thrown into the crowd. As a result, a woman named Kathleen Caronna received a skull fracture and fell into a month-long coma. Three other people suffered minor, but less serious injuries.
Eben Bear and Petula Pig got removed from the parade, due to The Cat in the Hat incident.
Sonic was unable to finish his march, due to his head getting punctured by a lamppost minutes after he began to march. This led to him being retired. But in conditions like that, it would be understandable since Sonic was a problematic balloon to begin with.
Quik Bunny caused some of the balloons, including himself, to get delayed, due to him struggling to get off the ground.
The Circus Balls and Snowflake Stars novelty balloons got removed from the parade after The Cat in the Hat incident.
After Eben Bear and Petula Pig's removal, they weren't mentioned in the NBC television boot. They were originally going to get videotaped after a commercial break, but didn't make it. This is possibly due to NBC having to do four other videotapes and didn't want to overrun the program, so they skipped them to save time.
The Cat in the Hat wasn't the only one to put somebody's life in jeopardy. The Pink Panther continuously knocked over his handlers, and nearly smothered a mother and her child. The handlers also reported that their leader got knocked unconscious, but it is not confirmed yet.
Barney was severely damaged in the parade. The winds caused him to sway violently at first, before Barney struck a lamp, tearing the right side open. Barney then deflated.
What makes it worse that people who hate Barney laughed at it instead of ignoring it, which is rude and heartless. Nevertheless, Barney did became bad in the later seasons of the show.
As mentioned earlier, this Parade marked the last time Willard Scott (who was hosting since 1987) hosted the event.
The balloons themselves looked great. In addition, some more positives happened with the balloons themselves:
Seven character balloons were lucky enough to overcome the winds and make it to the end of the parade (Arthur, Big Bird, Garfield, Rugrats, Peter Rabbit, Spider-Man, and Bumpé); all of them except Big Bird, Peter Rabbit and the Rugrats suffered from damage, though.
New rules were made in 1998, which included limits to the balloon's size, expansion of handlers and pilots, having two utility vehicles to help control the balloons, and larger handling bones. But this meant that balloons like The Cat in the Hat (obviously), The Pink Panther, Bugs Bunny, Bart Simpson, Rex the Dinosaur, Olive Oyl and Woody Woodpecker would be banned from any later parades. After an accident in 2005 with the M&M's balloon, more rules were introduced, which meant that the balloons would have to be lower, depending on wind speeds.
Sonic did eventually return in 2011 (now bearing his modern appearance), and survived through all of his parades, including a tree collision in 2013 with no damage.
Three new balloons were added to the 1998 Parade to show the new change of rules (although one of the three, Wild Thing, got cut open by a lamppost on 77th Street, the area where the parade gets prepared).
It was nice to see an obscure character like Bumpé become a balloon in the parade.
Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear were freed before they could get popped.
Aside from the Snow Family, all of the floats survived that year.
Kathleen Caronna managed to recover from her coma, and would sue Macy's in 2001 for her near-death experience.
Elmo's interview is pretty cute.
The NBC telecast was better, even if Willard Scott last hosted, it still was at least better. Not to mention they showed The Pink Panther and Quik Bunny's 1993 apperances and Barney, The Cat in the Hat and Sonic's 1994 apperances. This is because they all popped before reaching Herald Square.