Balloon Wrangler Is Down-to-Earth Type

Associated Press

Normally, Krista Wallach brings babies into the world as an obstetrical nurse. Thursday, she moonlighted as an inflation specialist, giving birth to a giant balloon in Macy’s 62nd annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“Today, I’m delivering a bird,” said Wallach, whose authoritative, orange-gloved hands directed the handlers of Big Bird, a 67-foot tall, 29-foot wide helium-filled replica of the “Sesame Street” character.

The volunteer handlers were wearing yellow jump suits with Big Bird spelled out in alphabet blocks on their backs. Their beaked yellow cowls were topped by multicolored-wool caps.

They were an enthusiastic lot as they geared up for the start of the nationally televised parade.


Wallach and John Hornstein, Big Bird’s balloon captain, pranced about giving last-minute instructions, Wallach waving her hands and Hornstein doing dance steps on occasion.

But who was in charge, Hornstein with his title or Wallach with her whistle?

Tells Them What to Do

“I’m always telling them what to do,” laughed Wallach, who outranks Hornstein 7 years to 3 on the balloon patrol.


The balloon volunteers, whose main qualification is that they weigh more than 150 pounds, got written instructions in the mail from parade organizers and then showed up Thursday morning.

At 8:45, Hornstein said: “Everybody, eyes forward.” Just before the 9 a.m. start, he was hitting high-fives when all seemed ready.

“All right, wish Garfield good luck,” Hornstein said to the troops. As they obliged, Wallach shouted: “But who’s the best balloon?” The troops razzed the competition.

Moments later, it was 9 a.m., blank shots were fired and the parade was on.

The celebrities included Dr. Joyce Brothers, who rode a goose and was traveling incognito in her Mother Goose outfit; Keshia Knight Pulliam, the youngest star of “The Cosby Show”; Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, who rode on the Marvel comic book float with the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Captain America; the famous chronicler of the rich and famous, Robin Leach, and the Four Tops.

The stars and their coteries were carried on two dozen massive floats, accompanied by 14 marching bands, hundreds of clowns and 400 cheerleaders from across the country.