SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There will be no Parade of the Big Balloons in Springfield for the third consecutive year.
According to a news release sent to 22News from a Spirit of Springfield spokesperson, the event is postponed due to a worldwide helium shortage. The Parade of the Big Balloons has been a holiday tradition on the day after Thanksgiving in Springfield since 1991 with giant, helium-filled characters that float down Main Street.
In 2021 Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt said the event was postponed citing several reasons, including ongoing COVID concerns. They were unable to recruit high school bands and dance schools due to the pandemic. Also, a major problem was the price of helium. The parade was also postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“Three years ago we brought nine balloons down the street for about $12,000 in helium, still a lot of money. And now to bring 9 balloons, it’s closer to $40,000 if we can get the helium… and chances are we can’t, we’ve checked all over,” said Judy Matt.
Helium is made as a byproduct of natural gas refinement around the world. Some of the largest producers have been closed, as well as the plant in Texas closed to a possible leak. A facility in Russia is also closed due to a fire.
“The Spirit of Springfield is all about traditions and bringing the community together in celebration,” said Judy Matt. “We are trying to find new and affordable opportunities like free concerts by The President’s Own U.S. Marine Band, a holiday concert by the 215th Army Band of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, and The U. S. Air Force Concert Band in March 2023.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno of Springfield states, “Unfortunately, the Spirit of Springfield must postpone the Parade of the Big Balloons for a third year due to the supply chain challenges that the region, the nation, and the world is experiencing. With everything going on across the globe, it has become a challenge for the Spirit of Springfield to secure and afford the cost of the helium needed to put on this event with the same level of excellence as their other noteworthy and beloved events such as our Bright Nights at Forest Park, the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast and our Star Spangled Springfield. I want to thank Judy Matt and her Spirit of Springfield team for their efforts and hard work in organizing all of our wonderful events and I am looking forward to seeing everyone as we kick off our Bright Nights at Forest Park!”
Helium is used to cool MRI machines, and scientific equipment enables semiconductor manufacturing and lifts weather balloons to allow meteorologists to make forecasts. The U. S. Weather Service is reducing the use of weather balloons, and scientists are even stopping some experiments.