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Inside Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade’s most infamous balloon crashes, from Sonic’s burst to near-plane crash

The annual MACY’s Thanksgiving Parade has been a staple since the 1920s, when millions of revelers lined the streets of New York to celebrate the start of the holiday season.

Patrons replaced live animals with balloons in 1928, and hundreds of inflatables depicting iconic cartoon characters have been used throughout its 10-decade history.


In 1993, the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon was plagued by high windsCredit: Getty
Barney the Dinosaur had an accident at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1997


Barney the Dinosaur had an accident at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1997Credit: Getty

Characters like Popeye the Sailor, Kermit the Frog, and Sonic the Hedgehog have all made an appearance.

SpongeBob Squarepants, Ronald McDonald and Stuart – the popular one-eyed Minion from the hit movie Despicable Me 2 – are among the characters that will feature in this year’s Thanksgiving Parade.

But, despite its illustrious history, it saw a series of infamous Sonic the Hedgehog incidents burst into a cat that inadvertently nearly caused a plane crash.

The Sun looks back on some of the incidents that took place during the festive event.

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In 1993, the Sonic Balloon was plagued by high winds, causing the inflatable character to crash into a pole on West 58th Street.

Sonic the Hedgehog was not strong enough for the wind speed and was hit in the left eye with a lamppost.

The impact caused a section of the balloon to tear and part of the lamppost to fall on parade spectators.

A 10-year-old girl and an off-duty police officer were injured in the balloon crash.

In addition, a woman was hit by helium fumes. All three victims were treated at the scene.

According to Mike Goldenthal, who saw the incident from his apartment, the big blue hedgehog “rammed into the lamp post, broke the lamp post and a big part of the lamp went off and it looked like he hit this guy in the back. “

The balloon was immediately deflated and did not finish scrolling through the parade.


In November 1932, a 60-foot Tom Kat balloon nearly crashed an airplane.

Bosses frantically spread the word to New York news outlets warning pilots to steer clear of large inflatables as the parade approaches.

But, one plane did not avoid trouble.

The shocking incident happened at a time when Macy’s was releasing the balloons into the sky at the end of the parade – something that hasn’t been done since the near-fatal event.

However, people received rewards if they located the balloons afterwards.

About 30 minutes after the inflatables came out, a flight instructor and her student flew their plane in the yellow-striped Tom Kat balloon, says The Hatching Cat.

The plane eventually went into a spin after the balloon fabric covered the plane’s left wing.

But since the plane was about 250 feet above the Queens skyline, the plane was able to resume flight and land safely.


Meanwhile, Tom Kat wasn’t the only feline to cause trouble at the annual walk.

In 1997, the Cat in the Hat balloon hit a lamppost while passing an intersection of 72nd Street and Central Park West.

The unexpected impact caused the cat’s metal arm to tear off.

And the lamppost, which weighed around 100 pounds, fell and injured four people – the worst injury being that a woman nearly died.

One of the victims, Kathy Caronna, fell into a coma that lasted a month.

A neurosurgeon at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center called his injury “one of the worst skull crush injuries I have ever seen,” according to The New York Times.

They added: “I’ve seen people thrown out of automobiles looking like this, and none of them survived.”

Caronna successfully sued Macy’s after the incident.


Barney the Dinosaur was also tormented during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1997.

A gust of wind swept the purple dinosaur into a lamp post, making it very difficult for the balloon handlers to keep control of the tall figure.

It took the dog handlers a few minutes to try to get control of Barney the dinosaur.

The police eventually had to surround Barney the dinosaur and stab the balloon with knives.

Spectators saw the huge balloon deflate before their eyes.

Footage of the incident was shared on YouTube years later, captioned: “Thanksgiving ’97. The day Barney was killed.”


In 1985, Kermit the Frog’s stomach was shredded after coming into contact with a tree during heavy rain.

The crash happened as the balloon was flying over Columbus Circle.

Despite the air leaking from the balloon, the big green frog finished “walking” through the parade and “looked like it passed out,” host Pat Sajak said.

The frog concluded the parade in Herald Square as planned, but only about three feet off the ground.


In 2008, a balloon created to look like Keith Haring’s most popular work ran into trouble during the parade.

The balloon – dubbed “Figure with a Heart” – featured a black-outlined white figure holding a red heart.

As the ball rolled down the street, it hit the NBC Broadcast booth.

After hitting the stand, shocking TV hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Al Roker. Fortunately, there were no injuries.


During the 1956 Macy’s Parade, Mighty Mouse nearly crashed at Columbus Circle.

As winds peaked at 45 miles per hour, the inflatable slowly fell to the ground after its right arm and ear lost helium.

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He chickened out moments before reaching the Macy’s store.

The bosses decided to take the ball off after the infamous moment.

In 1985, Kermit the Frog's stomach was shredded after coming into contact with a tree during heavy rain


In 1985, Kermit the Frog’s stomach was shredded after coming into contact with a tree during heavy rainCredit: AP
During the 1956 Macy's Parade, Might Mouse nearly crashed at Columbus Circle


During the 1956 Macy’s Parade, Might Mouse nearly crashed at Columbus CircleCredit: Getty
The Figure with a Heart balloon hit the NBC Broadcast booth in 2008


The Figure with a Heart balloon hit the NBC Broadcast booth in 2008Credit: Getty
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