Today, millions of Americans will be tuning in to watch the Annual New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition for many families. Did you know that science helped to make it possible for many of the beloved characters such as Snoopy and the Energizer Bunny to fly in the parade?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1927 and introduced the giant balloons for the first time; however, they were filled with air. It wasn’t until 1928 that they began to inflate the balloons using helium, a colorless, tasteless, odorless and non-toxic gas. In 1928, when they began using helium, they also decided to release the balloons into the air at the end of the parade which yielded poor results as helium expands at higher altitudes ending in the balloons popping. In 1929, they were able to develop a valve on the balloons that allowed the helium to escape slowly as the balloons flew higher; however, the balloons are no longer released into the air at the end of the parades due to interest of public safety.

Today, the balloons are designed with a sequence of compartments to hold the characters form which is then filled with 10,000-16,000 square feet of helium and requiring nearly 50 people to help hold the balloon and guide it along the parade route.

So today, as you watch the parade with your families, give thanks to science for helping take part in the creation of this cherished holiday tradition.

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