Barney Bites the Dust – and other Macy’s Parade Horror Stories

In 1997, Kathleen Caronna spent 24 days in a coma after a Cat in the Hat float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade crashed into a lamppost, causing part of the lamppost to plunge into her.

Several years later, New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle flew his plane into the same woman’s high-rise apartment. He died, she survived – again.

In 2005, Mary Chamberlain, then a 26-year-old confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy, was hurt by way of a suicidal, 515-pound M&M. In 2012, Macy’s Clown Robert Biosetti collapsed and died while the parade was in progress.

Back in 1994, Barney, the purple dinosaur beloved by children and horrified by parents, horrified all of them when his float blew up, collapsed and his balloon persona died right on the street.

Since 1928, more than 50 accidents have taken place – giving those of us who have never understood the point of this parade a means to substantiate our views during family arguments on the subject. Since it is obligatory to have it on the TV every year while figuring out if the button on the turkey is broken, our only reprieve was when a Keith Haring balloon slammed into the NBC broadcast booth and created dead air time while it was being peeled off of Al Roker, Meredith Viera, and Matt Lauer.


The parade must be a cost-effective advertisement for Macy’s or they wouldn’t be entering the 91styear of the spectacle, and because they spend a fortune. Helium alone costs them around half a million dollars per float, making them the largest consumer of helium after the U.S. government.

$12 million: average cost of the entire parade

$3-$5 million: cost of salaries

$2 million: cost of costumes

$780,000 to $2.6 million for floats

$140,00 in taxes

26: Number of year-round employees working on the parade, costing $1.3 million

The cost of settling lawsuits for the injured does not seem to be disclosed, yet it certainly adds to the cost of each parade with casualties.

Some of the costs above are offset by sponsors (think Ronald McDonald) spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a balloon to be manufactured and $90,000 every subsequent year to have it float through the streets of Manhattan.


According to a professor at the Wharton School of Business, there is no data to back up any claim to a return on investment. Clearly, Macy’s disagrees. Macy’s and the sponsors of the vast and possibly growing number of corporate mascots make those businesses happy. 3.5 million attendees and a global audience of somewhere between 44 to 50 million people enduring a few exhausting hours once a year isn’t something any retailer possibly could resist, whether it makes financial sense or not.

The only plausible reason for the cost might be the kids. Watching them look up in the sky with awe and wonder, seeing almost impossible feats happen, listening to celebrity singers they can see nowhere else for free, spending time with their families and celebrating what might be America’s only original holiday celebration –  that means something. It means that history, technology, and creative commercialization is the country that they, by pure chance, were born in. Soon enough, they’ll see the downsides of this country. Maybe they will look back on the wonderment and potential of America someday and dig the country out the ditch we’ve left for them.

And for Macy’s? Unless those kids are killed by a renegade Sponge Bob, they will never forget the brand that paid a fortune to make them happy for one day.




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