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Saltwater Portrait

Sea Witch celebrity: This is my last festival

Sally the Sea Witch reflects on two decades of flying high over Rehoboth Avenue
October 22, 2019

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

It’s been two years since Sally the Sea Witch saw herself front and center on page 84 of the Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, edition of the Cape Gazette. It’s an image she’ll never forget, she said.

“My skin is so dry, the green makeup on my chin is flaking off,” Sally said recently. “I get that I’m a witch, but I’ve got standards. That’s when I knew – the next time I flew would be my last.”

For at least the past two decades, Sally has been a centerpiece for the annual Sea Witch Parade in Rehoboth Beach. If the weather cooperates – the parade was cancelled last year – this will be her final flight above the crowd of revelers. “In addition to my face, the rest of my giant head and hat are wearing out,” the Sea Witch said. “I’m going to go out on top. I’m not going to be like some of those other parade balloons – holding on by a thread, or worse, deflating as I make my way down the street.”

Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Everhart began the annual Halloween-themed event 30 years ago, and she was the one who agreed Sally would be a good fit for the parade.

Everhart said famed parade balloon creator Bob Kemp contacted her about the balloon. At the time, Sally was about 40 years old and was looking for something to do, said Everhart.

Everhart couldn’t remember the exact year Sally the Sea Witch first flew, but she said she knows it was before Rehoboth completed its Streetscape project on Rehoboth Avenue because she remembers having to duck the now-buried telephone pole wires.

The earliest she appears on the pages of the Cape Gazette is in 1999, for an advance of the upcoming festival. That means she has been around since at least 1998.

A lot has changed since Sally began flying down Rehoboth Avenue. What started out as a way for businesses to bring customers downtown during the off season has ballooned into an event that will bring more than 200,000 people to the resort over the weekend if the weather is nice. “I’ll admit, when I first started I thought this festival was going to be a waste of my time,” she said. “Now it’s so busy, my friends and family have a hard time finding a spot to park because people park their cars on the parade route for a week before the parade.”

Over the years, it’s been said Sally is a veteran of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “A real high-society balloon, with a good pedigree,” she said in a 2001 interview.

Unfortunately, it appears Sally the Sea Witch did not fly in the Macy’s parade.

During a search for a photo of her flying high in New York City, Orlanda Veras, a Macy’s representative, said the parade studio team and archives could find no record of Sally the Sea Witch taking part in the Macy’s Parade.

Veras said the Macy’s parade has extensive records of everything that’s been in the Macy’s parade. “We do, on occasion, receive these types of inquiries as many people closely equate character balloons with the Macy’s Parade and sometimes connect the two, even if no direct relation exists,” said Veras in a Sept. 11 email.

Veras said Sally looks like a cold-air inflatable witch, reminiscent of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. He said there was a witch aboard a float in 1990 and one by itself in 2014, but neither was Rehoboth’s Sally. “No other witch character inflatables have been in the parade,” said Veras.

Everhart said she was surprised to hear about the Macy’s parade, but she said she also didn’t care because Sally the Sea Witch has been a great ambassador for the Rehoboth event. For more than 20 years, she said, Sally has been the exact opposite of what witches are known for – a high-flying delight, bringing joy to kids and adults.

Everhart said the chamber is exploring costs for a possible replacement for Sally.

Sally herself was a little more incredulous about the Macy’s parade news. “I’m 60 years old. I would have been flying in that parade when I was in my 20s. Those were my eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog years,” she said. “Honestly, I can’t remember.”

Looking to the future, Sally said she’s thinking about traveling, but she doesn’t have too much planned at this point.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Salem, Massachusetts,” she said.