Balloons Over Broadway

The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (2011)
Balloons Over Broadway

Tony Sarg (1880 – 1942) was the master puppeteer who invented the first huge animal puppets that floated in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. This is the story of a creative little boy who wondered at how things moved and worked, and who grew up to become the puppeteer of Macy’s parade. At age six he devised a way of remotely opening the chicken coop door with a pulley and rope, so that he could put feed on the ground the night before and pull the rope to open the door the next morning to let the chickens out to eat and quickly jump back into bed to sleep longer.  Sarg played with artistic ideas and mechanisms of marionettes all his life so that when he came to New York from Europe, he was an accomplished artist and puppeteer. Macy’s department store hired him to do moving window displays for which he designed storybook character marionettes that fascinated passersby. When asked to help Macy’s plan a large parade, Sarg recreated a carnival type parade that would remind European immigrants of home. Live animals were included, but the lions and tigers frightened children. The solution was for Tony Sarg to create balloon puppets on a grand scale. He commissioned a company in Ohio that made blimps from rubber to produce giant puppets from rubberized silk. Helium and air would keep the puppets rising high and puppeteers would control them from the ground with ropes. The giant puppets were so successful that the ideas are still used today in the annual Macy’s parade. An apprentice of Tony Sarg, Bil Baird, later became famous for his marionettes in the “Lonely Goatherd” in The Sound of Music. Jim Henson, an apprentice of Bil Baird, invented the Muppets. Children will enjoy learning the story behind the Macy’s parade puppets. This special book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Horn Book and Booklist. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

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