SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Mass News is learning more about Springfield’s Parade of Big Balloons, one day after it was announced that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be virtual this year.
Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt told us it usually takes 200 to 300 balloon handlers to bring ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and their other balloons down Main Street each year.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt said that number of people can’t hold down the balloons safely.
“We’re really looking at everything, to be honest with you, as to what we can do, so we can keep the tradition alive,” Matt said.
The COVID-19 pandemic could be the pin that deflates the parade of big balloons.
Each year, Spirit of Springfield puts on the event one day after Thanksgiving and one day after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
This year, the televised Macy’s parade will be virtual and pre-taped, with balloons tethered to cars instead of held by people.
Matt told Western Mass News they have experience swapping live balloon handlers for vehicles.
“Last year, you may recall there was a helium shortage, so what we thought was and we can get the cold air inflatables and they’re like on a skid so you don’t need handlers,” Matt noted.
Still , Matt said, there’s the hurdle of audiences and whether or not people will even be allowed to watch the balloons live. While she said it will likely take another two weeks to know the 2020 parade’s definitive fate
“I must be very frank with you, it’s not looking like it’s very plausible at this time,” Matt explained.
Matt said her team has turned much of their attention to Bright Nights.
“That’s definitely not a no,” Matt said.
The drive-through holiday lights event is mostly socially distant, but Matt said some mechanics of Bright Nights need adjusting to be COVID-19 safe.
“The police officers, to people rolling down the windows, the point of purchase when they buy the tickets, but we are hard at work on that,” Matt added.
It’s just one more way the pandemic has changed the tradition of group celebrations.
“It’s very sad that we can’t do that. I think people need this sort of thing now more than ever,” Matt said.
Again, Matt said she expects the final verdict on the Parade of Big Balloons in around two weeks.