12. You need to be a Macy’s employee, or know one, to be a balloon handler

Balloonfest 2022 before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Books is taking a test flight during 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Balloonfest at MetLife Stadium on November 05, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy’s Inc.

There’s no readily available application that you can fill out to be a balloon handler. Even though the position is a volunteer one, it’s highly coveted. In order to be a balloon handler, your first step is to either be a Macy’s employee or find an employee who can sponsor you. Since most handlers return year after year, there are few new spots available.

Once selected, according to Jodi Lippe-McGraw, who told her balloon-handling experience to Conde Nast Traveler in 2016, you then must go through Balloon Handling 101. You learn “the basics of aerodynamics of the balloons, rope techniques like when you let go and when you pull it tighter, how you pivot on the corner of the street, and what to do if there are wind gusts.” The piece balloon handlers hold onto, which connects to the balloon with rope, is called a “bone.” On the day of, hold on tight, smile, and listen to your balloon pilot!