Macy's balloons will fly at Thanksgiving Day Parade despite high winds

The iconic balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are flying lower this year due to high winds.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Astronaut Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants and the rest of the iconic balloons at the 93rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will all be flying after high winds threatened to keep them on the ground this year.

The 16 giant balloons of various characters will be part of the Thanksgiving festivities after being cleared to fly less than an hour before the parade begins, but they will be flying at a lower height than usual as a precautionary measure.

New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted Thursday morning that the balloons will be in the air.

Earlier in the morning, city officials had expressed their hope that the balloons would not have to be grounded.

"So I'm an optimist,'' outgoing NYPD commissioner James O'Neill told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on TODAY, Thanksgiving morning. "Sustained winds are predicted at 20 (mph), (but) we have to keep an eye on the gusts.

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"Mother Nature is starting to cooperate. The balloons might have to come down lower, but hopefully we'll be able to fly the balloons."

This year's balloons could be spending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the ground due to high winds. Saul Martinez / Reuters

New York City regulations stipulate the balloons cannot be flown if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph.

"We're like this," Macy's Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said on TODAY while crossing his fingers Thursday morning. "We're gonna put on a great parade whether the balloons fly at half mast or full height."

If the gusts get stronger after the parade begins, the balloons could end coming down.

"We can start on the parade route, and if the winds gust a little bit too high we can take them off the route and deflate them on a side street,'' O'Neill said.

The executive producer of the parade, which will air live on NBC starting at 9 a.m. EST, said on TODAY Monday that officials were taking a wait-and-see approach as far as whether the balloons would be flown.

"It's a little too early anyway, but we know it's going to be a great day regardless,'' Susan Tercero said. "We're going to have the parade no matter what. The show will go on, and we still have all of our mid-size balloons as well."

The city regulations were put into place in 1998 after a giant Cat in the Hat balloon injured four people when high winds caused it to knock over part of a streetlight on 72nd Street and Central Park West at the previous year's parade.

See some of the attractions that have delighted spectators young and old over the decades.

The last time the balloons were grounded due to inclement weather was in 1971.

This year's balloons will included SpongeBob SquarePants, Snoopy dressed as an astronaut to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and a "Green Eggs and Ham"-themed balloon, according to Tercero.

Celebrities in attendance will include Billy Porter, Idina Menzel and Lea Michele. There also will be plenty of floats, as well as 11 marching bands that made the cut after an 18-month selection process in which more than 100 bands applied.

The good news for the annual crowd of about 3.5 million spectators is that temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s on Thursday compared to last year, when there was a low of 19 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.