The giant balloons that float over Philadelphia during the Thanksgiving Parade are a giant hit. But this year, they could be a giant liability.
Forecasters are suggesting some gnarly weather could be in store for Thursday, including dangerously high winds — the one thing you don’t want when an enormous Big Bird that weighs hundreds of pounds is floating above the families lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Coordinators of the parade say they haven’t made a call yet on whether the 15 big balloons, this year including Shrek and the Angry Birds, will fly. Mike Monsell, vice president of marketing at 6ABC, said in a statement that the organizing team is watching projected wind speeds, which will determine whether the balloons can fly through the entire parade route. That decision will be made early Thursday.
Monsell said wind thresholds that would trigger a change of plans are based on safety recommendations provided by the balloon vendor. He said there are a number of variables to consider, including balloon size and type, plus where the balloons fly on the parade route. These guidelines have been in place for years, he said, and public safety is the “main concern.”
Officials in New York City who are planning the Macy’s parade are facing similar concerns, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Safety regulations regarding the balloons have been in place since 1997, when an inflatable Cat in the Hat went rogue and left one person in a coma.
Just last year, the big balloons in Philadelphia — including Grinch, Waldo, and the Super Robot Voltron — ran a truncated route because forecasters believed wind gusts could reach 26 mph.
This year, winds reaching 40 to 45 mph are “almost a given,” a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. said. Other than that, the weather should be relatively pleasant. No rain is forecast and temperatures should remain in the 40s, a full 20 degrees warmer than what parade-goers sat through last year.
The 6ABC Dunkin’ Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, celebrating its 100th year, begins at 8:30 a.m. at 20th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard and ends around noon along Kelly Drive.