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It’s not easy to land a job as a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The balloon handlers in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade pull loads of strings lengthy earlier than Kermit and Snoopy elevate off.

Maneuvering the big inflatable characters could look like enjoyable and video games, nevertheless it’s one of many hardest gigs to get for the reason that 1,500 unpaid slots are saved for Macy’s workers and choose household and pals.

Thankfully, many staffers embrace the vacation spirit and “sponsor,” or suggest, others for the job.

“Electronic mail everybody you understand who works for Macy’s!” suggests Jorge Lee, 44, who scored his first balloon project by way of a pal in 2004 — and has held on tight ever since, rising by way of the ranks to develop into captain of the Elf on the Shelf balloon for this yr’s Nov. 28 parade.

We are able to solely sponsor a handful of individuals and it is extremely popular,” says Lee, from Union Metropolis, N.J. “Who would not wish to be a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?”

Elvia Negron-Perez (l.) landed a coveted balloon handler spot in the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade thanks to Jorge Lee (r.), where she got to learn the ropes navigating Julius the Sock Monkey. She's coming back in 2013, and plans to make an annual tradition out of it.

It took California writer David Jerome a yr and a half to lastly get his foot within the door . “It appeared like it could be very simple,” says Jerome, 46, who reached out to Macy’s PR group in 2011, “however they shifted me to another person as a result of they get loads of media requests.”

After a hitting a lifeless finish, Jerome posted a plea on LinkedIn that ultimately related him with somebody within the retailer’s charitable division, and final yr, he bought up at 5:15 a.m. to tug the Elf on the Shelf whereas dressed as considered one of Santa’s little helpers.

“Discovering a Macy’s sponsor is the toughest half, ” he says. “However when you’re in, you are in.”

Since Macy’s first launched the helium giants in 1927 with Felix the Cat, the vacation custom has expanded to incorporate 15 huge balloons, together with the 72-foot-long Toothless monster from DreamWorks’ “The right way to Practice Your Dragon,” unveiled in New Jersey throughout Saturday’s Balloonfest, the place handlers squeaked in some last-minute coaching.

One of the jobs of a balloon handler is deflating it after the parade.<npesce> </npesce>

Every balloon requires 50 to 100 volunteers, however half of the handlers and 98% of the balloon captains and pilots maintain on to their spots yr after yr. “We’ve a really excessive return charge,” says Susan Tercero, the parade’s vp of operations. “We actually like those that have been right here a really very long time, and encourage them to return again. They’re die-hard followers, they usually’ll do something to take part.”

Getting in is hard, and it is no picnic even after scoring a spot. “It is rather bodily,” warns Elvia Negron-Perez, 52, from the Bronx, who landed on Julius the Sock Monkey’s balloon final yr after Lee vouched for her. “I believed it was going to be simple with so many individuals. How heavy is a helium balloon?”

Seems, fairly heavy! The pull from the balloon elevate may be 300 to 500 kilos. Issue within the chilly and the wind, and the 2½-mile parade appears like a marathon. That is why handlers should be over 18, weigh not less than 120 kilos and have sturdy backs and knees with no coronary heart issues.

Handlers attend balloon boot camps in September and October to be taught the ropes. “I like to recommend doing pullups, pushups, bicep and tricep exercises to prepare, since you actually put your physique into holding that balloon down,” says Negron-Perez. “It is laborious work, nevertheless it additionally would not really feel like laborious work, since you’re so giddy.”

It took David Jerome a year and a half to land a coveted job as balloon handler in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.<npesce> </npesce>

Handlers say some balloon assignments are cushier than others. Inflatables on the entrance of the parade run by way of the route in an hour or two, whereas the back-of-the-packers could possibly be exterior for 3 to 5 hours.

“Most individuals prefer to be on the massive balloons, like Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man,” says Lee, “versus the novelty balloons just like the Christmas ornaments or sweet canes — which are literally loads of enjoyable. You could have extra leeway to do stuff with the little balloons, like make them spin round, versus the massive balloons, the place you just about simply march.”

Positioning is all the pieces. Grabbing the bones — or rope handles — within the entrance of the balloon means you may be pulling tougher than these within the again.

Rookies be warned: balloons are sometimes overbooked, so not each handler will get thrown a bone. “After they inform you to get in there and begin holding ropes, folks within the know cost proper in,” says Jerome, who was left empty-handed final yr. “My job at that time was to wave on the crowd and scream out an elf cheer. I wasn’t actually enthusiastic about that, however I am there for the expertise.”

An enthusiastic balloon handler cheers with the crowds for Shrek as he passes Times Square at the turn on 42nd St. in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Fortunately, many handlers go the baton, so Jerome bought a flip. “It was fairly hilarious,” he says. “I am 46 years outdated marching in just a little elf costume. That is the gateway drug to being a mall Santa.”

Planning to tweet or Instagram a parade day selfie? Suppose once more. “Cellphones? Texting? Completely not!” says Negron-Perez. “You can not take your palms off that rope.”

Do not depend on a tv closeup both.

“Balloon handlers are by no means on TV,” sighs Negron-Perez. “The balloon is the star.”

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