Full of Hot Air 

Giant inflatables float through Rubber City.

It'll take as many as 120 musclemen to hold down four ginormous helium-filled balloons as they float down Akron's main drag during today's Welcome Santa Parade. But it's anybody's guess whether Mother Nature will hold the wind at bay. "That's the problem: We have a concern, but there's no way of knowing in advance," says Ron Syroid, a member of the Lighter Than Air Society, a group of Northeast Ohio's aviation enthusiasts. "We certainly don't need wind gusts of a hundred miles an hour."The 48-foot-tall inflatables come courtesy of a Pennsylvania balloon company, whose creations are also seen every year in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The designs depict a giant candy cane, a laughing dragon, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus, who brings up the rear of the hour-long procession.And Akron's Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has a connection to the Big Apple spectacle. In 1927, Macy's parade chief hired the rubber-making giant to develop and assemble a series of high-flying "balloonatics" to replace the caged lions and tigers that had scared kids half to death along the streets of Manhattan the year before. While the company got out of the balloon-building business in 1982, Lighter Than Air's managers decided to pay tribute to Goodyear's parade work during this holiday season. "They built these things for so many years, and people aren't even aware of it," says Syroid. "I started hearing about their involvement once upon a time and long, long ago. I'd even been to the Macy's parade, but I just never knew the connection." The parade starts at noon today on Main Street from Cedar to Bowery streets in Akron. Admission is free. Call 330-375-2835 or visit www.holidayfest.org.
Sat., Nov. 24, noon, 2007

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