Macy’s has been hosting an annual Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1924, and since that time it has become the iconic image of Thanksgiving for many Americans. Felix the Cat was the parade’s first balloon to make an appearance three years later and the parade blossomed into becoming a spectacular event with dozens of balloons and characters livening up Main Street from that moment on.
But sometimes it defies logic that the giant air-filled floats can stay on course so perfectly, and sometimes we secretly hope one of them will have a mishap just to see something amazing and historic happen.
Looking back at the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade there are a few instances of float accidents that did just that—make history. Here, we count down the top 10 most memorable Thanksgiving Day Parade float accidents:
10. Popeye Pours 50 Gallons of Water onto an Unhappy Crowd – 1957
When a flaw in the design of Popeye the Sailor’s hat meant rainwater collected inside, Popeye dumped 50 gallons of water onto a completely unwitting and unhappy crowd as he turned a corner on the parade route.
9. Kermit the Frog Gets Gutted – 1985
No one wants to see an innocent Sesame Street character float go down the way Kermit did. The poor frog’s stomach got snagged on an unidentified object causing him to deflate rapidly, much like the dreams of the crowd full of children who gazed on, no doubt traumatized forever to some degree by the scene.
8. Raggedy-Ann Lamppost Fail – 1986
Marching parade participants barely escaped the wrath of Raggedy-Ann when she careened into a lamppost and split it in half. The post came crashing down onto the crowd and narrowly spared the marchers’ lives.
7. Superman Surprise Amputation – 1986
1986 proved to be an epic year for Macy’s float accidents, as Raggedy-Ann’s fiasco was followed by Superman’s arm being ripped off by a tree, which was obviously blooming with Kryptonite blossoms that day.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog Causes Physical Harm – 1993
Sega’s insanely popular video game character Sonic crashed into a lamppost on Columbus Circle and broke an off-duty police officer’s shoulder in the fall.
5. Broken Barney – 1994
Once again a lamppost brought an untimely end to a children’s television star when Barney the Dinosaur tore on one, resulting in a group of knife-wielding parade officials hauling his deflated carcass off of the street. Children cried, parents cheered.
4. The M&Ms Hospitalize Sisters – 2005
After a few years without much damage, parade organizers must have felt comfortable enough to allow the M&M’s float to pass over a junk-covered roof that rained down deadly debris that hit two sisters. The next year the float was retired and the sisters got a lifetime supply of M&Ms.
3. “Figure with Heart” Has No Love for NBC – 2008
NBC’s broadcast experienced a serious interruption when a giant replica of artist Keith Haring’s piece, Figure with Heart, came crashing into their tent. Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Al Roker had to wait to until the float was cleared to continue, likely feeling lucky to have escaped.
2. Dudley the Dragon Gets Impaled – 1995
In another violent and traumatizing float fail, the leader of the parade, Dudley the Dragon, was accidentally speared and deflated—on what one can only assume to be the bane of any float’s existence—a lamppost. Since everybody loves a little bling, Dudley added some sparkle to the occasion by shattering glass all over the onlookers.
1. Cat in the Hat Carnage – 1997
Number one on our list brings us to 1997, when the Cat in the Hat—one of the biggest and most ornate balloons in the parade’s history—met a lamppost in one of the hardest-to-watch balloon stabbings in history. After the Cat went down it looked as though the Barney float was about to do the same. In an effort to head of the wreckage, parade officials wildly stabbed Barney until he was completely deflated, much to the shock and amazement of the crowd.