NHA Bringing Massive Sea Monster Balloon To Nantucket This Summer In Celebration Of Tony Sarg

Nantucket Current •

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Tony Sarg’s Sea Monster on Nantucket in August 1937.

A massive sea monster is coming to Nantucket this summer.

The Nantucket Historical Association announced Tuesday that part of its “Summer of Sarg” exhibition will include re-creating Tony Sarg’s 75-foot sea monster balloon to the island this summer. The sea monster will be displayed for all to see, enjoy, and take photos with during a free Sarg Community Day at Children’s Beach on Monday, August 5, from 10 am-3 pm.

Known as the father of modern puppetry in North America and the originator of the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons, Sarg was an accomplished illustrator, animator, designer, and entrepreneur who summered on and took inspiration from Nantucket for nearly 20 years.

In the summer of 1937, Sarg orchestrated a media hoax on Nantucket with his sea monster balloon. He planned various spottings around the island, including footprints on the beach and sightings of a creature in the water. A few days later, Sarg displayed his massive sea monster balloon, which he named “Morton,” on Francis Street Beach for locals and tourists to be wowed by, and it soon became known as the “event of the summer."

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Tony Sarg and his Sea Monster balloon on Nantucket, August 1937. Photograph by Pivirotto.

“To say we are excited about bringing a recreation of one of Tony’s Sarg Thanksgiving Day Parade-sized balloons to the island this summer is an understatement," said Niles Parker, the NHA's Gosnell Executive Director. "With our featured exhibition about Tony Sarg this season, our staff has been intentionally weaving Tony Sarg's story-telling into many of our programs and offerings, and Sarg Community Day will be a great example of that for island and visiting families to enjoy. The essence of Tony Sarg is fun, and that is what this program and this recreated moment from the famous 1937 Nantucket sea serpent landing, will be all about."

To recreate Sarg's sea monster moment in history, the NHA is working with Bill Smith of Smith Special Productions and Balloonworks. Smith has been designing parade balloons since 1987 for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and other parades around the country. Sarg is one of his greatest inspirations, so much so that he contacted the NHA many years ago to express his desire to recreate one of Sarg’s works. When the NHA decided to host a featured exhibition about Tony Sarg this summer, it was the "perfect opportunity" to bring Smith's vision and dream to life for one of the non-profit's community programs.

In addition to sea monster balloon viewing, the NHA’s Sarg Community Day will also offer family-friendly activities, including a Nanpuppets performance and crafts exploring the art of puppetry.

Tony Sarg: Genius at Play, the NHA’s featured exhibition, will open at the Whaling Museum on Friday, May 24.

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Tony Sarg’s Nantucket Sea Monster balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1937. Photographer unidentified.
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