In the News

Spirit of Springfield Announces 2016 Parade of the Big Balloons Parade Marshal

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Spirit of Springfield announced the 2016 Parade of the Big Balloons Parade Marshal yesterday at Tower Square. Mayor Domenic Sarno J. Sarno joined Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt, Fred Christensen, Vice President for CBRE – Northeast and General Manager for Tower Square, Jerry Sullivan, representing the family of Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan who served as the 2015 Parade Marshals, and Peter Lappin, to announce Chief Master Sergeant Maryanne Walts of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard, as this year’s honoree. She is only the second woman to serve as the Parade Marshal since 1991 when the Spirit of Springfield began presenting the holiday parade.

Chief Walts is the Command Chief of 104th Fighter Wing. She represents the highest level of enlisted leadership within her wing. Chief Walts is responsible for all matters influencing the health, professional development, military readiness, morale and welfare of assigned enlisted personnel and their families.  She entered the Air Force in 1991.  She began her career at the 104th Fighter Wing in 1985.

When the Parade of the Big Balloons steps-off on Friday, November 27, at 11AM,  Chief Walts will be leading thousands of marchers, musicians, motorized contingents and balloon handlers down Main Street from Lyman Street to Locust Street.  This will include Springfield’s own 75-foot inflatable Cat in the Hat, as well as American Flag, Wintery Strawberry Shortcake, Daniel the Tiger, Butterscotch the Elf, Honey Bee and Burgundy Nutcracker balloons.  They will be filled with 26,000 cubic feet of helium and require more than 200 balloon wranglers.

Other entertainment along the procession will be Springfield Central High School Marching Band and Cheerleaders, American Medical Response, American Red Cross, Betty Law Fights Back, Boys & Girls Club Family Center, Chicopee St. Patrick’s Day Committee, Civil Air Patrol, Forest Park Zoo, Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America, Melha Shriners, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Springfield 16 Acres Lions Club, Springfield Boys and Girls Club, Springfield Lodge of Elks, Springfield St. Patrick’s Day Committee, Stone Soul Festival, Western Mass News, several dance studios and more.  Santa will make his grand entrance high atop Springfield Fire Department Ladder 1.

In addition to Tower Square, the parade is supported by contributions from Chicopee Savings Bank, PeoplesBank, Smith & Wesson, American International College, Springfield Marriott, Massachusetts National Guard, Gleason Johndrow Landscaping, MassLive, Western Mass News, Springfield Fire Department, Springfield Police Department, and the Department of Public Works.

The Parade of the Big Balloons ushers in the holiday season and entertains crowds as great as 60,000 along Main Street.  It is followed by Tower Square’s traditional Holiday Open House from 11AM to 2PM which features an array activities and performances. 

The Spirit of Springfield is recruiting balloon wranglers to guide the helium giants down Main Street.  Volunteers will receive a souvenir red and white striped hat.  Wrangers must be at least 16 years of age and weigh a minimum of 90 pounds.  To volunteer, visit and click on “Participate.”

For more information about the Parade of the Big Balloons sponsored by Tower Square, contact the Spirit of Springfield at (413) 733-3800 or visit

Page last updated:  Tuesday, March 1, 2022 01:32 pm