The 71st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (1997)
Ladies and gentlemen, coming in New York, this disaster of a parade will let you see your favorite characters getting destroyed by 70 mph winds!
November 27, 1997
The 71st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held on November 27, 1997. It is infamous for the amount of balloons that were popped or ruined, and was considered the worst parade in history. Some have jokingly called it the "Great Balloon Massacre of '97". It was shown live on television on NBC, but for some reason, some of the balloons which were destroyed include the ones that were used from the previous years.
High winds of up to 70 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, Barney the Dinosaur, Quik Bunny, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Cat in the Hat.
Even the surviving balloons (except for Big Bird) got damaged in some areas, such as Garfield's tail, Chuckie's shorts, Spider-Man's head, 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.
If they didn't make new rules after what happened to The Cat in the Hat, the entire parade would have been canceled. Yes, all of it.
Eben Bear and Ms. Petula Pig got removed from the parade, due to The Cat in the Hat incident.
Due to his damages, Bumpé could not come back to celebrate his book "Bumpé ABC" getting released that year.
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 Ms. 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 seriously 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.
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 suffered from damage, though. As for Big Bird, he is the most lucky out of all of them as he never suffered any damage at all.
New rules were made in 1998, which included limits to the balloon's size, expansion of handlers and pilots, and having two utility vehicles to help control the balloons. But this meant that balloons like The Cat in the Hat (obviously), The Pink Panther, Bugs Bunny, Bart Simpson, Rex the Dinosaur 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 the 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 recovered from her coma, and sued Macy's in 2001 for her near-death experience.
Elmo's interview is pretty cute.
The NBC telecast was at least better than the full version and didn't really show some balloons getting damaged and only showed some of the balloons from the previous years, because they thought it would upset kids.