WATCH: A Day in the Life of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Handler

A day in the life of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon handler. Greg Butterfield, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has worked as a balloon handler since 1982. Butterfield was hired when he was 14, and became one of the first parade balloon handlers when the parade moved from Columbus, Ohio to New York City. In his 22 years with Macy’s, Butterfield has made more than 100 appearances with balloons and floats in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the longest continuously produced parade in the United States. Unlike other parades in this country, an official traveling float is not replaced or relocated every year. Instead, parade attendees notice the parade trims down. Butterfield describes the parade as being “stacked” a little. When Butterfield began working with the balloons in 1982, he said balloons were 50-feet long. In 2000, balloons hit 14 miles per hour. Today, the balloons are still 30 feet in length. In 2001, the balloons hit 51 mph. In 2017, balloons were 46 mph. In the half a century that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been around, Butterfield has been through all kinds of weather. He explained that balloons flying during the air show can fly “6 to 8 knots” (that’s about 6.2 to 8.8 mph). However, balloons kept in the parade can climb as high as 25 knots. Looking at the parade today compared to past years, Butterfield emphasized the cleanliness of the balloons. Muppets have always had more than 700 pounds of spandex on them. According to Butterfield, at one point, the show included the Cruisin’ Cappuccino and a 15,000-pound brass bee, and a clown standing on the roof of a 20-story building. Today, the parade’s helium balloons float on a straighter course around New York City. A balloon can go “15 to 20 miles per hour” when flying “anywhere over 1,000 feet” and Butterfield said a Macy’s balloon has not gone over 30 miles per hour since 2004. “It’s been a great parade. We’ve met a lot of great people,” said Butterfield. “Working here has made me a better person.”

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— Posted by Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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