Engineering the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

How does Macy’s make its iconic Thanksgiving balloons?

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade History

For just shy of a century, Macy’s has put on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with its iconic, giant balloons. However, before any before the dozen or so balloons step into the streets of NYC, a team of engineers, artists, painters, and other designers work in a 72,000 square foot studio year-round to make it happen.

Step 1: Design and draw

Designers and artists sketch the balloon out. They have to make sure the balloon’s shape will let it fly evenly and that its size will provide the right amount of helium. Too small and there won’t be enough helium to lift the balloon, too big and the balloon will rise too high and tilt upwards.

Step 2: Render

Engineers turn that sketch into a digital 3D model and use that model check the design’s structural integrity.

Step 3: Model

This digital design goes to a 3D printer for scale models and another printer for custom fabric patterns. Designers also create an armature model, similar to a skeleton, of the design, then cover that armature in clay.

Step 4: Cast and Plan

Designers use the clay model to build two cast models. They use one of those cast models for drawing seams, ropes, and the inflation/deflation spots. They paint the other one with the design’s exact colors.

Step 5: Assemble

Workers cut the fabric, heat seal the pieces together, and inflate the balloon with enough helium to lift about 12,000 basketballs. Once inflated, they hand-paint everything according to the design.

Step 6: Fill and Test

Designers test the balloon’s flight with various wind speeds to ensure everything is balanced out, from the helium to the handlers with ropes underneath. The balloon must be able to collapse into a container small enough to fit through the Lincoln Tunnel the night before the parade.

Step 7: On With the Show!

Showtime! 3.5 million live spectators and millions at home watch more than 8,000 parade workers walk the 2.5-mile route on Thanksgiving.

FREE eBook: 18 Tips from Real Industrial Marketers

Unlock your marketing potential with insights from today’s industry experts.

The following two tabs change content below.

Kelly Obbie

Social Media Coordinator at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A 2018 graduate of The Media School at Indiana University, Kelly studied journalism, public relations, English and Spanish and has experience in news writing and editing as well as social media writing and management. She also has professional and personal experience in videography and photography. She currently lives in Ohio but has lived in four states, and in her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, learning languages, and watching Disney movies.