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Balloons have only been grounded once in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971.

This year, a storm bearing down on the East Coast with a messy mix of snow, rain and wind is threatening to ground giant balloon versions of Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The iconic characters that soar between the Manhattan skyscrapers every year may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a woman spectator.

Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph.

“At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons,” said Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras.

Balloons have only been grounded once in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade's 87-year history

Balloons have only been grounded once in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s 87-year history

“On Thanksgiving morning, Macy’s works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations, determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights.”

Balloons are set to be inflated in Manhattan on Wednesday evening.

The parade was awash in animal-related protests over its floats, with controversies involving the unlikely pairing of rocker Joan Jett and Shamu the killer whale.

Activists planned to line the parade route to protest a SeaWorld float over accusations in a new documentary that the theme parks treat whales badly. And ranchers succeeded in getting Joan Jett pulled off the South Dakota tourism float after they questioned why the vegetarian and animal-rights ally was representing their beef-loving state.

SeaWorld says the accusations have “absolutely no basis” and that “the men and women who care for these animals at SeaWorld are dedicated in every respect to their health and well-being.”

Macy’s said the parade does not engage in social commentary or political debate.

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This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will have four new balloons along with the iconic Snoopy coming back.

On November 10, The Washington Post posted video of the parade’s four new balloons, which include “Adventure Time” alums Finn and Jake, “SpongeBob Square Pants,” Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon,” and a revamped Snoopy balloon.

This year’s Snoopy balloon will feature the character’s feathered friend, Woodstock, riding on his head, marking the Peanuts dog’s 37th appearance at the Macy’s parade.

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will have four new balloons

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will have four new balloons

According to Businesswire, this year’s Snoopy balloon further cements the classic comic character’s long-standing record for most appearances and most balloon versions in the annual parade.

Snoopy debuted in the 1968 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and since then the popular beagle has turned up as an astronaut (1969-1977), an ice skater (1986-1987), a flying ace (multiple appearances from the 1960s through 2011) and even Millennium Snoopy.

In addition to the debut of four new balloons, the parade’s previously announced performers include Carrie Underwood, Fall Out Boy, Gavin DeGraw, Ariana Grande, Fifth Harmony, Austin Mahone, Goo Goo Dolls, Florida Georgia Line, Cher Lloyd, Kellie Pickler, Megan Hilty, Kristin Chenoweth, Joan Jett, and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.

Cirque du Soleil will also perform at this year’s parade, and there will be a 75th anniversary tribute to The Wizard of Oz. Reality stars from Duck Dynasty are also slated to appear.

The 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade kicks off 9:00 a.m. ET on November 28 and will air live on NBC.

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The 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returns to kick-off this year’s holidays with its giant balloons, floats of fancy, marching bands, celebrities and, of course, Santa Claus.

Duck Dynasty cast will join Goo Goo Dolls, Kristen Chenoweth, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings, and Gavin DeGraw for this year’s parade.  Jimmy Fallon will also make an appearance along with NFL Legend Joe Namath.  There will also be performances by the Radio City Rockettes and Broadway’s best musicals including “Matilda,” “Motown” and more.   The Big Apple Circus, Sesame Street and Cirque du Soleil will also get into the act.

On Thursday, November 28, the newest Snoopy balloon will take flight along with his pal Woodstock marking another record-setting stint in the holiday spectacle. The Charles M. Schulz classic comic character will soar in his 37th Macy’s Parade, cementing Snoopy’s long-standing record for most appearances and most balloon versions, seven in total since the 1960s.

A mythical dragon will also spotted over the skies of New York City.  Toothless, the star of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon will be joining an incredible lineup of giant helium-filled balloons.

Also, this Thanksgiving the beauty and majesty of the sea will come to life on the streets of New York as SeaWorld’s A Sea of Surprises float debuts.

The 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returns to kick-off this year’s holidays

The 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returns to kick-off this year’s holidays

The Minions of Despicable Me 2 are also set to create mayhem aboard their new float this November that will surely delight parade fans from around the country.  The 33-foot long bake shop-themed float will feature 3-1/2 foot tall cupcakes.

The parade will also honor the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz with a 47-foot hot air balloon featuring Dorothy and other characters from the classic film.

From new giant characters helium balloons including Paul Frank’s iconic monkey Julius and Sonic the Hedgehog, to out-of–this world floats including Zhu-niverse and Frozen Fall Fun, the magic begins at the sound of Let’s Have A Parade. This iconic phrase has catapulted gaggles of clowns, exciting performance groups, pulse-pounding marching bands, celebrities and the one-and-only Santa Claus down the streets of Manhattan for 87 years of unrivaled wonder.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will step-off at 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will travel down to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South and march down a new path via 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas to 34th Street. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square. This incredible cavalcade will make its way down 6th Avenue, a broader, more accessible path that marks only the seventh time the Parade has changed its route.

The parade will begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon.

A Holiday Treat for Children Everywhere, the motto of the Macy’s parade has stood for 86 years and will continue to usher in the season of joy for years to come.

More information on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is available to the general public at www.macys.com/parade or via the Parade Hotline at (212) 494-4495.

To view the balloons being filled with helium click here.

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Google is launching superpressure balloons into near space to provide internet access to buildings on the ground.

About 30 of the superpressure balloons are being launched from New Zealand from where they will drift around the world on a controlled path.

Attached equipment will offer 3G-like speeds to 50 testers in the country.

Access will be intermittent, but in time Google hopes to build a big enough fleet to offer reliable links to people living in remote areas.

It says that balloons could one day be diverted to disaster-hit areas to aid rescue efforts in situations where ground communication equipment has been damaged.

But one expert warns that trying to simultaneously navigate thousands of the high-altitude balloons around the globe’s wind patterns will prove a difficult task to get right.

Google calls the effort Project Loon and acknowledges it is “highly experimental” at this stage.

Each balloon is 15 m (49.2 ft) in diameter – the length of a small plane – and filled with lifting gases. Electronic equipment hangs underneath including radio antennae, a flight computer, an altitude control system and solar panels to power the gear.

Google aims to fly the balloons in the stratosphere, 20 km (12 miles) or more above the ground, which is about double the altitude used by commercial aircraft and above controlled airspace.

The giant tech company says each should stay aloft for about 100 days and provide connectivity to an area stretching 40 km in diameter below as they travel in a west-to-east direction.

Google says the concept could offer a way to connect the two-thirds of the world’s population which does not have affordable net connections.

“It’s pretty hard to get the internet to lots of parts of the world,” said Richard DeVaul, chief technical architect at Google[x] – the division behind the scheme.

“Just because in principle you could take a satellite phone to sub-Saharan Africa and get a connection there, it doesn’t mean the people have a cost-effective way of getting online.

“The idea behind Loon was that it might be easier to tie the world together by using what it has in common – the skies – than the process of laying fibre and trying to put up cellphone infrastructure.”

Google launches internet-beaming balloons into near space

Google launches internet-beaming balloons into near space

A group of about 50 testers based in Christchurch and Canterbury, New Zealand, have had special antennae fitted to their properties to receive the balloons’ signals.

Google now plans to partner with other organizations to fit similar equipment to other buildings in countries on a similar latitude, so that people in Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia can also take part in the trial.

“Google as an organization believes that the more people who use the internet, ultimately, the better the world will be,” added Richard DeVaul.

“And the more people who use the internet the more likely they are to use Google services.”

Google is not the first company to pursue such an idea. An Arizona-based firm, Space Data, already provides blimp-based radio repeaters to the US Air Force to allow it to extend communications coverage.

Another Orlando-based firm, World Surveillance Group, sells similar equipment to the US Army and other government agencies.

However, they typically remain airborne for up to a few days at a time rather than for months, and are not as wide-ranging. One expert cautioned that Google might find it harder to control its fleet than it hoped.

“The practicalities of controlling lighter-than-air machines are well known because of the vagaries of the weather,” said Prof. Alan Woodward, visiting professor at the University of Surrey’s department of computing.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort to make these things wander in an autonomous way and I think it may take them a little longer to get right than they might believe.”


What are superpressure balloons?

Superpressure balloons are made out of tightly sealed plastic capable of containing highly pressurised lighter-than-air gases.

The aim is to keep the volume of the balloon relatively stable even if there are changes in temperature.

This allows them to stay aloft longer and be better at maintaining a specific altitude than balloons which stretch and contract.

In particular it avoids the problem of balloons descending at night when their gases cool.

The concept was first developed for the US Air Force in the 1950s using a stretched polyester film called Mylar.

The effort resulted in the Ghost (global horizontal sounding technique) programme which launched superpressure balloons from Christchurch, New Zealand to gather wind and temperature data over remote regions of the planet.

Over the following decade 88 balloons were launched, the longest staying aloft for 744 days.

More recently, NASA has experimented with the technology and suggested superpressure balloons could one day be deployed into Mars’s atmosphere.

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