MUMFORD, N.Y., June 18 — When the CEO of the Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M; www.gcv.org) set out last year to build and fly the world's first replica of a Civil War manned balloon – the Intrepid – little did he know his dream could collapse from a nationwide helium shortage. But he also didn't bargain that one of the country's most iconic retailers would step forward to deliver a miracle at the last minute, literally raising the project off the ground.
Thanks to the generous support of Macy's – a brand synonymous with the giant helium-filled balloons that grace Manhattan's skies every Thanksgiving morning – the Intrepid will begin flying this July 4 outside of Rochester, N.Y. Weather permitting, the balloon will take guests 300 feet (32 stories) into the sky, simulating what some of the world’s first military pilots (a.k.a. aeronauts) experienced 150 years ago.
First announced this past February, the Intrepid project has captured the imagination of families, educators, historians and aviation enthusiasts across North America. Renowned documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and adventure balloonist and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson have both praised the historic reconstruction.
"Supporting education is an important aspect of our community giving, made even more relevant in this case since Macy’s was founded during the Civil War era,” said Russell Schutte, senior vice president / director of stores, Macy’s Midwest. “With our unique connection to helium ballooning, we had the opportunity to help Genesee Country Village & Museum fulfill its dream to open this one-of-a-kind, interactive exhibit. The result will benefit not only the people of Western New York, but visitors who will travel from across the U.S. and overseas to experience the wonder and history of flight.”
Featuring its signature giant helium character balloons, the 86th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place on Thursday, November 22.
One side of the deflated Intrepid is hand-painted
by illustrator Todd Price in May 2012.
Like the original seven gas balloons used by the Union Army during the Civil War, the Intrepid is tethered to land for optimal convenience and safety. Visitors – up to four at a time – will have the opportunity to take 15-minute flights for a nominal cost in addition to their museum entry fee.
A team of prominent advisors is assisting with the project, including Tom D. Crouch, Ph.D., senior curator of Aeronautics for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum; Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and Rob Shenk, director, Internet Strategy & Development, Civil War Trust.
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