STAMFORD, Conn. — Two of the biggest events of the year are slated for this weekend in Stamford — and hopefully the weather will cooperate in preparation for the annual UBS Parade Spectacular.
From 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, there will be an inflation party for the big balloons, giving spectators an up-close view as the characters come to life.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held near the parade's starting point on Hoyt Street near Summer Street.
The parade itself — featuring a new "Octonauts" balloons along with 14 other large balloons — is slated to step off at noon Sunday.
The starting point is at the intersection of Summer and Hoyt Streets. The parade continues down Summer Street and makes a left on to Broad Street and then a right on to Atlantic Street where it ends at 400 Atlantic St.
Sandy Goldstein, president of the Stamford Downtown Special Services District, said she's praying for good weather for the parade that draws the largest crowd of any one-day activity in the state.
"It is a must-do thing for kids in the region," she said.
But the weather may not cooperate. It will be mostly cloudy, with a temperature of about 40 degrees. But it will be breezy, with a west wind 13 to 20 mph and gusts as high as 31 mph.
And those high winds may be enough to ground the balloons.
The threshold for the huge balloons is 25 mph winds — anything higher is not safe for the balloons to fly.
Goldstein said a decision on marching with the 15 balloons will be made Sunday morning, a few hours before the parade is scheduled to start.
But regardless of the balloons, she promised that the parade will step off, with spectators able to enjoy the bands, floats, dancers and, of course, Santa Claus.
It's the 23rd year the parade and the 11th year that UBS has been the title sponsor. Mayor David Martin's Chief of Staff Michael Pollard said UBS's involvement has transformed and expanded the parade.
"They transform Stamford's holiday parade into something well beyond what anybody could have ever imagined," Pollard said of the parade's evolution into a massive event that draws tens of thousands of people to the area.
"They have balloons like (New York City's) Macy's holiday parade and then have the local flavor to it. You are now drawing in literally hundreds of thousands of people to the city and it has really bolstered our economy. They have done more to improve the city's economy on one day than any single group."
Lori Feinsilver, UBS head of community affairs for the Americas, said the company is proud to support the parade.
"It is a tremendous source of pride for us. This year over 800 employees, clients and friends are going to be participating in the parade," she said.
For this year's event, attendees are urged not to take backpacks and large bags as they may be searched by police.