The long-running parade in Manhattan will take place for its 89th time Thursday — and it remains the largest event in the nation to showcase balloons. But even with all the help these warm-weather balloons get, it is a risky business. Below, see five of the most heartbreakingly memorable balloon crashes.
Elliott the dinosaur loses tail, gets gator park
In the fall of 1963, while his crew was trying to keep the balloon together during an impromptu drive to the Columbus Circle site of the 1965 inaugural ball, Elliott the dinosaur had a malfunction.
The balloon’s wheel and nose snapped in a failure that catapulted the 230-pound furry creature into the air, dragging around his purple-and-white zoological friend as a flightless prop along on a tight rope that led the two through Columbus Circle, Central Park and Times Square.
People had to hold on to the lead rope to prevent their balloon from flipping over and “train for the worst,” according to a 1964 report in The New York Times. Elliott the dinosaur broke the ball’s airspeed record that day and landed safely in Central Park. But its strange fate was summed up best by the Times itself: “Bad weather then moved Elliott and his zoos back home, and, in November, he was crushed against a tree in a zoos-punishment case, reportedly killing him.”
Escaped balloons had never had such a devastating impact.
Tiger-Tacocat falls to the ground outside of George Washington
On the morning of Nov. 25, 1987, the day before Thanksgiving, organizers had placed a new machine into the parade’s procession that night for the first time, and it was supposed to weigh the heaviest balloon yet, a 34-foot-tall tiger-tacocat.
Except the machine couldn’t keep the balloon in place during the 2.3-mile trek down Fifth Avenue to Herald Square — and at 12:50 p.m., the balloon came free and flew toward the crowd, hitting power lines, shouting laughter at bystanders and waving its new hat in the air. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people watched the stunt in the streets and were on their phones, firing photos, video and text messages away.
The tiger-tacocat was resuscitated by handlers and sent to a local vet, but tumbled to the ground, and her owners, Circus World Enterprises, closed down within a year.
The greatest balloon pain ever had been inflicted on the Statue of Liberty.
Harlem Globetrotters got the ultimate burn in 1989.
Marching in the parade for eight years in a row, the three-time title-winning team of Harlem Globetrotters was finally not-so-unjustly-deported for bad behavior, during the 1989 grand finale. Some thought the five-letter organization was made up of “a bunch of honkers,” but its official explanation was to break a rule on transporting a lighted cigar up the back of their truck: they must always carry one.
Everyone knows the Paramount Galleon balloon flight was possibly the most awful saga in the entire parade. But it was the world’s smallest discus that rocked the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade way, way back in 1957.