Big Balloon Bash

Big Balloon Bash

November 28, 2019

Any great parade has marching bands, clowns, and giant inflated balloons shaped like our favorite characters. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York has it all. Macy’s first launched the event in 1924 as a Christmas parade, with just 3 floats. Since then the extravaganza has become bigger and better, with 27 floats and more than 8,000 participants. But it’s also had its ups and downs. In 1956, all the air came out of Mighty Mouse, and in 1962, heavy rain filled Donald Duck’s hat, which eventually dumped 50 gallons of cold water on the crowd. Even so, over 3 million visitors come to New York to watch the parade, and hopefully they’ll stay dry.

Wee ones: If as the parade passes by you see a marching band, then a giant balloon, then a band again, then a balloon, what do you think you’ll see next?

Little kids: If the 5th float just passed by you, how many floats passed by before that?  Bonus: If 150 million people watch it on TV and another 3 million watch it in person, how many millions of people are watching?

Big kids: If the 1st balloon has 15 people walking under it, then the next has 23 people, then the next has 31 people…how many people do you think the next balloon has?  Bonus: Each giant parade balloon is filled with 12,000 cubic feet of helium — enough to lift 746 pounds! If it picked you up, how many more pounds could it lift?

The sky’s the limit: The first parade in 1924 had 250,000 spectators watching in person, and about 4 million spectators in 2016. If the parade crowd took the same number of years to double each time, how many years did it take to double once?




Wee ones: A marching band.

Little kids: 4 floats.  Bonus: 153 million people.

Big kids: 39 people, since the number keeps jumping up by 8.  Bonus: Different for everyone…subtract your weight in pounds from 746.

The sky’s the limit: The parade crowd doubles 4 times in total: to 1/2 million spectators, then 1 million, then 2 million, then 4 million. 1924 to 2016 is a 92-year stretch, so the crowd doubles every 23 years. (In reality, though, the parade took only 9 years to reach 1 million!)

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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