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4 weather conditions that can throw a wrench in iconic parades

By Jennifer Fabiano, AccuWeather staff writer

While the phrase “don’t rain on my parade” has lasted throughout generations, parades of today won’t let a little rain or other unfavorable weather conditions bother them on the big day.

Most parade events occur rain or shine, whether it is sunny and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or if it is snowing and 15.

Here are how various weather conditions affect parades across the country.

1997 Thanksgiving

Handlers struggle with a wind-whipped Peter Rabbit balloon during Macy's 71st annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1997. Wind gusts of 40 mph were reported in the area as the parade, famous for its huge helium balloons of cartoon characters, got under way. (AP Photo/Emile Wamsteker)


Wind is an important player in parades that involve props such as balloons, floats and puppets.

The famous balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can only be operated if sustained wind conditions stay below 23 mph and wind gusts are not expected to exceed 34 mph based on city regulations, according to Orlando Veras, a Macy’s Parade spokesman.

These regulations were not in place during the 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as the balloons flew during winds of up to 43 mph, according to The New York Times. The intense winds damaged balloons and injured four parade spectators.

On the day of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the New York Police Department determines if and how high the parade balloons will fly, according to the L.A. Times.

Wind is the biggest concern during the parade, according to John Morris, the vice president of multiplatform programming at 6abc and executive producer of the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

“We have a safety threshold at which we will ground the helium balloons, to protect their handlers and spectators along the parade route,” said Morris. “Otherwise, they fly rain or shine.”

Thanksgiving rain

Spectators watch as the Mr. Potato Head balloon passes through Columbus Circle under a steady rain during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)


The parade team rolls with whatever types of weather conditions that occur on the day of the event, said Jeanne Fleming, the artistic and producing director of the New York City Village Halloween Parade.

The Village Halloween Parade features giant puppets that will still be used in the event of rain. If it rains, the puppets are covered with tarps in order to maintain their form.

Performers will dress in more protective waterproof layers, according to Fleming.

While rain will usually force some minor adjustments, sometimes rain or a major storm will completely disrupt the festivities.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on New York and New Jersey, shutting down most of those areas, leading to major issues ahead of the New York City Village Halloween Parade.

“Even though it happened days before the parade and we were ready to go on Halloween night, the streets were dark and New York City was under water,” Felming said. “The mayor canceled everything.”

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Though snow is uncommon during Thanksgiving parades, it is possible during some of the events. In the case of snowfall, the parades will usually continue.

In 1989, Central Park received 4.7 inches of snow by the time the first Thanksgiving snowstorm in New York City in 51 years came to a close, according to The New York Times. Despite the snow, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held, with 1.8 million spectators facing the elements to watch the parade live.

A few inches of snow will not stop the Thanksgiving Day Parade teams.

“Our floats are all weather proof, but we realize the people riding on them aren’t, so we do make sure they have umbrellas and protective clothing if necessary,” Morris said.

Performers dress in protective waterproof layers in order to stay warm and dry.

“Our performers and participants may change their outfits to deal with cold or rain, but they will be there regardless,” Morris said. “Layers, gloves, extra socks are keys to marching in wet weather.”

As with rain, puppets and other props will be covered in order to stay dry and float drivers will take extra precautions.

As with rain, puppets and other props will be covered in order to stay dry and float drivers will take extra precautions.

Low temperatures

The key to dealing with low temperatures during parades is dressing in warm layers, according to Fleming. Thanksgiving Day Parade teams in the Northeast expect lower temperatures on parade day, and so they dress accordingly.

According to Morris, low temperatures in Philadelphia have not posed as much of an issue due to timing of the parade.

“Being that it is in November, we have not had to deal with extreme, dangerous cold,” Morris said.

Performers are not the only parade participants affected by colder weather. According to Morris, the lower the outdoor temperature is, the more helium is necessary for each balloon.

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