It turns out Elmo is a cold air balloon. Which (i know now) means that he rides tethered to a flatbed cart with two gasoline powered fans blowing air into his feet to keep him inflated. The handlers responsibility is to guide the cart along the parde route. Well Elmo had more than enough handlers for that task, but the Rescue Heroes balloon (alternatively referred to as the Fireman) did not have enough. Fireman was an extra large balloon. Dave and I were recruited to help with him. The jumpsuits were the same color (red).. our hats however didn't match the red fireman hats that the other handlers wore. So if you look at the video of the parade you will see one fuzzy wigged handler from behind. That's Dave! :)
We had a blast with this balloon. Our ballon master was very enthusiastic about the whole process. Our balloon rode straight and tall for almost the entire length of the parade. We spun him - much to the delight of the spectators - and expertly brought him under the traffic lights at City Hall. My position was one of four ropes in the rear. I met Jack, from Bucks County who was doing this with his wife, Bev for the first time. Jack, Bev, Dave and I shared a table at the volunteer lunch at the Sheraton after the parade. Bev was on our ballon too, on the opposite from Dave in the front.
The weather was colder than last year - in the 40's instead of the 70's - but not cold enough to run a marathon! LOL. Speaking of which it took us longer to walk the balloon up the parkway than it did to run half the marathon last Sunday. There are just as many - if not more - TV timeouts in the parade as there are in the first half of your average college basketball game! The timeouts are fun too though. We throw candy canes to the kids, wave to the crowd and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I offered my ropes to several children along the way. They were bug eyed and grinning as they held the balloon ropes attached to a huge fireman. What a hoot! I loved it!
The wind was more of a factor this year as well. Several times at a stoppage, the balloon swayed back and forth over the heads of the crowd sometimes with his feet inches above heads. The crowd Oohhed and Aahhed with the beat of the swaying. As we approached the Art Museum circle we had to work extra hard to keep the balloon moving forward. Unfortunately, two of the interior ballons (referred to as bladders) popped in the process. One was holding his hat upright so the footage on ABC was a little wimpy looking. However there is a nice shot in today's Inquirer of him standing tall earlier in the parade.