The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Connection

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Stevens Institute of Technology and the Big Balloons

What do students at Stevens Institute of Technology have to do with famous fictional characters such as Horton the Elephant, Buzz Lightyear, Smurf, Shrek, Hello Kitty, Dora the Explorer, and others?

Well, Stevens Institute students are involved in designing and building the big character balloons that are walked along the parade route in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. This has been going on for more than 23 years! Working with the balloons is a one-of-a-kind experience, and it gives students the opportunity to put their engineering and leadership skills to the test.

We discovered this tidbit of information when a recent article, about our Frame My Future Scholarship contest, appeared in a local weekly newspaper, The Newtown Bee, Newtown, CT. The newspaper put a one-sentence filler beneath it about the character balloons being designed and built by students from Stevens Institute of Technology. The name of the school struck a chord with Christine, a manager here, because we have a diploma frame partnership with this school.

How exciting for the students! Although this goes along with plenty of hard work. Students attend training sessions in early November, and work with the parade’s newest balloons during test flights on the Stevens athletic field. Their commitment to the parade means a possible all-nighter on Thanksgiving Eve to get the balloons ready. Student volunteers help inflate and prepare balloons for the parade, and also work with Macy’s staff during the parade itself. Finally, on Thanksgiving morning, there are training sessions for the parade’s balloon handlers, which the students help to teach, having already been through the training themselves.

The inflation is open to the public the afternoon and night before the parade. Coincidentally, this past Thanksgiving, Christine and her family actually went to see the balloons being inflated in New York City. “The opportunity to view the balloons being inflated was a great experience – the size of the crowd was amazing and added to the excitement of seeing the larger-than-life characters being inflated. Our family favorite was Shrek!”

Can’t wait to see which new characters Stevens Institute students will be working on for next year’s parade!

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