Balloons Over Broadway tells the remarkable story of Anthony (Tony) Frederick Sarg, creator of the wonderful balloon marionettes that floated above the crowds in the annual Macy's Parade. Tony Sarg was born in Coban, Guatemala in 1880 to German Consul, Francis Charles Sarg and Mary Elizabeth Parker, an Englishwoman. Tony grew up in an artistic household; his grandfather was a woodcarver and his father an artist. His grandmother loved to collect toys of all kinds and he inherited her collection when she passed away.
When Tony was seven his family moved to Germany where he attended school and eventually joined the army. But Tony was interested in artistic endeavours. He met his wife, Bertha Eleanor McGowan, an American tourist in England and eventually travelled to the United States to marry her. Tony did not become a citizen of the U.S. until 1920; he and his family moved to Cincinnati at the outbreak of the First World War. When he moved to the United States he was able to find work as an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post.
Tony's time in England had prepared him well. He learned a great deal about puppetry and used marionettes to establish his artistic business and reputation in America. He formed a puppetry troupe that toured in the 1920's and 30's, including the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
Soon his marionettes became famous and he was hired by Macy's to design puppets for their first ever holiday parade in 1924. He was also asked to design a puppet parade for their Christmas holiday windows in 1935 and created many beautiful mechanized displays that enthralled the public.
Balloons Over Broadway focuses mainly on Tony's work with Macy's in a wonderfully attractive manner with beautifully crafted artwork throughout. Some of the pages show photographs of toys made by the author Melissa Sweet. There are also lovely watercolour illustrations and collages made from fabric, newspaper and paper from old books. All this in an very successful attempt to give this picture book an atmosphere that captures the era Tony lived in.
Balloons Over Broadway is a delightful picture book about an very famous artist whose almost forgotten legacy includes Bill Baird creator of the "Lonely Goatherd" marionette show in the 1965 movie, The Sound of Music. Baird in turn trained Jim Henson who created The Muppets, loved by children and adults alike.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2011
Tony Sarg nha exhibition