Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Macy’s Day Parade Puppeteer

“Every little movement has a meaning of its own.” – Tony Sarg

We’ve lost sight of the magic in the world around us. With all the new whizzing gizmos and gadgets that come out what feels like every month or so, children in particular have been numbed. That’s why when I discovered Balloons Over Broadway, I was thrilled beyond belief. It is the story of the incredible puppeteer Anthony Sarg who invented the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, adding more than a touch of wonder to the streets of New York City and bringing joy to the thousands of people who gathered to watch his masterpieces take to the air.

balloons over broadway by melissa sweet

The Story

Anthony Sarg was born in 1880. A creative young boy, he loved to figure out how to make things move. One of his first inventions was a contraption that consisted of a rope strung out to the chicken coop, so early in the morning when he was due to feed them all he had to do was the give the rope a tug, which in turn would open the door to the chicken coop and he wouldn’t have to get out of bed.

As he grew up he began to tinker around and invent marionettes. They were so lifelike in the way they moved that when he moved to New York City he was asked to put on a show in one of the biggest department stores-Macy’s. When it was a hit, Macy’s had another big job for Tony. Most of their workers were immigrants, who missed the street parades and celebrations from their countries. Being an immigrant himself Tony was more than happy to help them put on a parade that everyone could celebrate. Thus began his undertaking of creating the giant balloons that would bob about high above the heads of the people gathered below them every Thanksgiving for decades.

balloons over broadway

Illustrations

Author/ illustrator of Balloons Over Broadway Melissa Sweet used collage cut outs, water color, fabrics and various objects all altered and painted to look like they belonged back in the time that Anthony Sarg was alive. They are brilliant, an eclectic mix of everything that drop you right into the story. Her artwork is beautiful, a portrayal that does as close to full justice as possible to Tony Sarg and his life/work.

balloons over broadway illustrations

Overall

Balloons. Marionettes. Two classic things that inspired awe, laughter, and the utmost happiness in people before they knew the meaning of entertainment in the form of movies, television and video games.  When I read this book, the first few pages I was just mildly curious about what was going to happen. Then more I read it, the more I fell in love with it. It will resonate with strongly with children as it taps into their imagination and plays to their creative side. They will be drawn in by the unique illustrations, and the story of Tony Sarg who according to his daughter ‘quite simply, never grew up.’

“I have never done a stroke of work in my life”- A.S.

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