(skip this header)

New Canaan News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

newcanaannewsonline.com Businesses

« Back to Article

Understudy balloons play second string

Updated 9:57 pm, Monday, November 12, 2012

nextprevious

  • Scooby-Doo has led the UBS Parade Spectacular in downtown Stamford in the past, but will serve as an understudy this year. The annual event steps off at noon Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. Scooby is 22 feet long, and requires 5,000 cubic feet of helium and 22 handlers. Photo: John Breunig
    Scooby-Doo has led the UBS Parade Spectacular in downtown Stamford in the past, but will serve as an understudy this year. The annual event steps off at noon Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. Scooby is 22 feet long, and requires 5,000 cubic feet of helium and 22 handlers. Photo: John Breunig

 

Larger | Smaller
Email This
Font

More Information

The UBS Parade Spectacular wills tep off from Summer and Hoyt streets at noon Sunday. An inflation party is to be held at the site from 3-6 p.m. Saturday.
Page 1 of 1

STAMFORD -- Last year Scooby Doo led the UBS Parade Spectacular, earning the honor of top dog as the first balloon of 21 let loose on the route that winds through the city's downtown.

This year Scooby will be relegated to the dog house.

The once-gliding Great Dane will be grounded in Sunday's parade, sitting on the sidelines with fellow canine Spot The Dog and Mighty Mouse, as a three-member team of balloon understudies.

"If all goes well, the life of an understudy balloon is one of sheer disappointment. You just stand by and do absolutely nothing for the parade," said Downtown Special Services District Manager of Events and Marketing David Klein.

Understudies are a constant in the parade, though they're very rarely used. The last time a second-string balloon found its way floating through the city was in 2008 when Gumby was called upon after another one of the parade's stars experienced a malfunction. But there have been close calls.

Last year, the 45-foot tall inflatable Elmo suffered pre-parade issues, leaving him a little deflated. The 20 handlers controlling the cartoon balloon were sent through the route anyway, due to a lack of time to fix the problem; Elmo's issues only surfaced about a half-hour before the parade's traditional noon stepoff, and it takes between an hour and 90 minutes to fully inflate an understudy.

"So this year, we've changed the operations for understudies. We'll have them all blown up full of helium, waiting downtown just in case," Klein said.

But "Scooby Doo's hopes shouldn't get too high," according to Klein. Since the sailing stars of the parade will be blown up Saturday during a 3 p.m. inflation party on Hoyt Street, the parade team has ample time to diagnose issues that may have arisen during shipping, and possibly fix problems.

Oscar The Grouch should keep at least one eye out of his trash can at all times, though.

The "Sesame Street" star, who stands at 50 feet tall in his inflatable form, and is soaring in his sixth Stamford parade, holds a coveted position this year. Though he was sponsored by City Carting last year, the green grouch is one of two balloons being sponsored by UBS this year, along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Last year, UBS sponsored the caterpillar and Scooby.

There's no telling how the 32-foot long pooch will react to being replaced -- especially after he soared so high in 2011.

"I hope there will be no sabotage. I have to keep them in line as best as I can," Klein said Monday. "Maybe I'll order some Scooby Snacks to make sure he stays at bay."

Scooby Doo could not be reached for comment.

Should anything happen to Oscar or any of the other 17 blimps bobbing above Stamford's city streets, the new understudy operations should lead to a pretty easy fix -- one the crowd most likely wouldn't even notice, Klein said.

"It would be incredibly disappointing to have to tell volunteers there's nothing to fly. That would be sad, so we make sure that the understudies are ready and we can make a seamless transition to the back-up balloons if we have to," Klein said.

He used Clifford the Big Red Dog, which will be carried through Stamford by employees of The Advocate, as an example. If anything were to happen to Clifford, The Advocate's handlers would be tapped to lead an understudy through the route.

"That way the volunteers still get to do this very exciting job," he said.

He said he hopes for the best, and that Scooby -- an ever-humble hero -- should be just fine with his role this year.

"All three of the understudies at one point or another have flown in the parade, not as understudies, but as actual balloons. So they shouldn't be that disappointed, because they've had their moments before."

maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon