A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 17, 2008
Balloon Wrangler

Horse wranglers take care of horses and are, perhaps, the most famous of all “wranglers.” Balloon wranglers take care of balloons. At the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, balloon wranglers make sure that the famous balloons on the parade route are traveling properly and not bumping into buildings or light posts or overhead wires. It can be a difficult, high-risk job.


Wikipedia: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by Macy’s Department store. The three-hour event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving.

History
In the 1920s many of Macy’s department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started by Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York by Macy’s. In New York, the employees marched to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy’s balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then “crowned” “King of the Kiddies.” With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy’s declared it would become an annual event.

Large animal-shaped balloons produced by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.

As the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whomever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy’s.

Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio through 1941.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: wran·gler
Pronunciation: \-g(ə-)lər\
Function: noun
Date: circa 1510
1: a bickering disputant
2[short for horse-wrangler, probably part translation of Mexican Spanish caballerango groom] : a ranch hand who takes care of the saddle horses; broadly : cowboy

25 November 1988, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Balloon Wrangler is Down-to-Earth,” national desk, pg. 42:
[Krista Wallach] and John Hornstein, Big Bird’s balloon captain, pranced about giving last-minute instructions, Wallach waving her hands and Hornstein doing dance steps on occasion.

“All right, wish Garfield good luck,” Hornstein said to the troops. As they obliged, Wallach shouted: “But who’s the best balloon?” The troops razzed the competition.

Google Groups; alt.2eggs...
Newsgroups: alt.2eggs.sausage.beans.tomatoes.2toast.largetea.cheerslove
From: (DarrinT68)
Date: 26 Nov 2003 02:47:34 GMT
Local: Tues, Nov 25 2003 10:47 pm
Subject: NYC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: World’s Most Famous Parade

The Parade has always been known for its policy of going on rain or shine and the valiant efforts of the balloon wranglers should always be recognized.

Macy’s
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Tradition
By Gail Leino
The history of America’s legal holiday of Thanksgiving is not complete without mention of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tradition has this and other parades scheduled in the morning while the holiday meal is being prepared. Whether by design or accident, the parade distracts family members from the kitchen where the mammoth project is underway.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was devised by a large department store in New York City in 1924 as a way to kick off the Christmas shopping season which begins the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas shopping is worth every bit of the effort to draw crowds downtown. This single scant month of retailing pays the bills and makes the profit for the entire year in many retail stores. The parade began being carried by television in the 1950’s so that it gained the national spotlight.

The parade is a very long and elaborate one with floats, bands, and helium balloons depicting well known cartoon characters. A lot of press is given to the helium balloons which take a long time to make and require and entire team of ground personnel (called balloon wranglers) to pull with ropes through the streets of New York. These are numerous and each year brings new versions. The first of these was Felix the Cat in 1927. No one has ever failed to be impressed by the sight of these gliding past high rise buildings.

Washington (DC) Post
March Madness
An insider’s guide to seeing New York’s Thanksgiving extravaganza—the right way.

By Anne McDonough
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; D02
(...)
To catch the baton twirlers and balloon wranglers at their freshest, stake out a spot on Central Park West around 70th Street, just a few blocks south of the parade’s kickoff.

My Point Exactly
Friday, November 24, 2006
Balloon Wranglers
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade began in the early 1920s. Some say it was created as a distraction for husbands and children across America so that housewives were able to cook in peace, without anyone sneaking bites of food in the process.

She Speak
12.16.2006
Mighty Wrangler!!
(...)
I have watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for several years & never gave credit where clearly credit was due. What am I rambling on about...just this, I have been given the opportunity to be a balloon handler in our local Fiesta Bowl Parade. I have nick-named it “Balloon Wrangling” just because I think it sounds much cooler.

Did you know that you have to go to training to be a balloon wrangler? As I was driving to my training session I kept thinking...what the hell, how hard can it be to wrangle a balloon. Oh but it was all serious business when I arrived. What was supposed to be a 20 minute session turned into a full hour of do’s and don’ts...like don’t let the balloon drag on the ground when going under a power line, don’t forget to pull the balloon down to avoid the power line, don’t forget to keep walking forward as it is a parade...don’t wrap the balloon rope around your hand etc.

My biggest question was never answered...what happens if everyone else drops their rope. I mean, how long do you hold on trying to save the balloon before you let go. What if you held on too long and now you’re too far off the ground to let go!! It could be a full on disaster. I can only hope to survive in order to follow up to let everyone know how it goes.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 17, 2008 • Permalink