Before any of the 16 giant balloons float above the streets of New York for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, they begin as coated material manufactured at a Trelleborg Coated Systems Inc. plant in Monson, Mass.
The company, part of Sweden's Trelleborg Group, said in a 2021 blog post that it knows the material must meet some unique requirements for the parade. It must be waterproof and UV resistant to withstand November weather conditions, must have a paintable surface to add details for each character and be packable but pliable.
The material is shipped from Massachusetts to Macy's Parade Studio in Moonachie, N.J., for actual production from "balloonatics" on staff.
The balloons are reused year after year.
"For a Macy's balloon, there's a lot of art but there's also a lot of science," John Piper, vice president of Macy's Parade Studio says in a new video from Scholastic. "We have to figure out how much gas needs to go inside the balloon so the balloon will fly."
If you're curious, Piper also shows how the balloons' deflation ports that are opened after the parade so they can be packed and stored for future years. (Trelleborg notes that in their first years, the balloons were simply released and allowed to float away. Anyone who found one could return them for a gift certificate.)