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About Bill Smith

 

Born September 21, 1960 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Bill Smith is one of the most recognized forces in the field of design and creation of giant parade figure balloons, floats and costumes. His talents span over nearly two decades having the distinction of designing over 400 different character balloons that have appeared in hundreds of parades and special events all over the country. He has produced entire parades and events, ranging from Easter egg hunts to Fireworks displays, grand openings, mass-balloon launches, musical events and theatrical presentations and radio and cable television programs. His many talents encompass art, music, writing and production. He and his work have entertained millions of people since his professional career began in 1987. 2009 marks Smith's 22nd year as a professional balloon designer and puppeteer.

Bill Smith Age 5
Bill Smith Age 5

Bill's fascination with the giant larger than life parade balloons began at the age of three (1963) when he viewed his first Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Looking on in awe as lumbering rubber figures of Popeye, Bullwinkle and Donald Duck floated between the skyscrapers of New York City to the musical number "The Big Clown Balloons" from Meredith Willson's "Here's Love," which was playing on Broadway at the time was the central feature of the 1963 parade on NBC television. From that moment, Bill knew that his passion would be to someday design and fly these giant "pop-art" Characters, and to someday work for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Macy*s with the balloons. While Bill enjoyed friendship's with many key people in both organizations, little did he know, that the dream would be greater fulfilled in a way that he could never have imagined as a child growing up in the east end of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He would view the next 10 Macy parades on television.

Smith Special Productions

Bill kept scrapbooks filled with dozens of newspaper clippings from all of the New York newspapers including the Daily News, The New York Times and the Herald Tribune. The Williamsport Sun Gazette and The Grit supplied a local slant on the parade, announcing the newest balloons each year and covering the parade the day after Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving of 1975 that Bill and family members made the trek to the Big Apple to see the balloons in person for the very first time. A gift of Broadway grandstand tickets gave him the "television" view in person. As the rain-swept parade began, a marching band played "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," the giant Dino The Dinosaur and Bullwinkle balloons floated in to view, and the bright NBC spotlights glared through the darkness of the rainstorm. He never missed a Macy Parade in person from then on. In total, he has seen 30 Macy Parades in person. The "dream" of working on the parade and the balloons never realized, and with Goodyear bowing out of the balloon business, Smith was introduced to Bob Kemp of Kemp Balloons, Inc. in 1982.

Kemp was awarded the task of producing and maintaining the Macy*s balloons for the years 1981 through 1983. In that time, he refurbished all of the old Goodyear balloons and created three new balloons: Olive Oyl, Woody Woodpecker and Yogi Bear. In 1983, Bill was invited to New York by Kemp to observe the inflation of the balloons and the parade. In 1984, Smith began an apprenticeship with Kemp Balloons. This association gave Bill a crash course in building, design and the proper care of balloons, and hands on experience traveling to parades around the country inflating and escorting balloons down the streets of major metropolitan cities.

Tony Sarg
Tony Sarg

In 1986 Smith left the family run business to strike out on his own and begin what would become Smith Special Productions! In June of 1987, Smith's first balloons floated through the streets of his hometown. In the spring of 1987, he sold his first major parade account to Kaufmann's Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He sold the parade with ideas, a stack of cartoon drawings of his first giant balloon characters and the business was born. His first licensed character balloons were his childhood favorites Bob Clampett's Beany & Cecil. Since 1987 he has entertained millions of parade watchers all over the country with his helium filled creatures both in person and on every major network television station including CBS, NBC, ABC, TNN, and FOX. He is most proud to preserve and present the huge rubber balloon characters in the tradition of the late Tony Sarg, who created the concept of parade figure balloons in 1927.

He has received awards and certificates for his work and his balloon characters have been featured in hundreds of newspaper, magazine and television news broadcasts. His balloons have launched the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada and the Cartoon Network in Atlanta, Georgia. The 25th Anniversary Of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame Festival in Canton, Ohio, the 60th Anniversary of the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami, Florida. The Cotton Bowl Parade, Kentucky Derby Parade, Holiday Bowl Parade, The Oklahoma City Centennial Celebration, The Opening Of Jacobs Field for the Cleveland Indians, The Little League World Series, The Parade Of The Big Balloons to honor Dr. Seuss, in which Smith designed the very first Cat In The Hat balloon, The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and hundreds of holiday parades and July 4th celebrations. His creations would appear in international events from Puerto Rico to Japan and London. While he may have been an "observer" in New York, he entertained nearly two generations with his very own balloon brigade.

Perhaps one of Bill's greatest personal and professional accomplishments to date is his ongoing friendship and relationship with Macy's Parade And Annual Events, producers and directors of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy's Flower Show and Macy's Fourth Of July Fireworks Spectacular. Bill's professional involvement includes assisting in the parade's balloon training and safety programs, parade logistics and street operations, and the coordination of each balloon unit to the deflation and dismantling site on parade day. 2009 mark's Smith's 8th consecutive year working with the world-famous parade in a professional capacity.

In 2006, Smith assisted in production of Al Roker Entertainment's television special "Inside Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" for The History Channel. In addition to providing still images and home movie and video footage, Bill also is interviewed throughout the one hour special. The program has become an annual special that airs on The History Channel each holiday season and is available for purchase through The History Channel Store website.