New Castle News

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October 23, 2013

Photos, Story: Balloon maker tackles inflatable tank

NEW CASTLE — Toni McKay from New Castle’s Starbound Entertainment has produced giant balloons for parades and events all over the globe.

Now, she’s going back to the past.

McKay has created an inflatable replica of a World War II Sherman tank at the request of film producer Rick Beyer and Bob Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council in Providence, R.I.

Beyer is the producer of “The Ghost Army,” a History Channel documentary released earlier this year that focused on  “The Ghost Army.” Officially known as 23rd Headquarters special troops, the secret Army unit went into action in June 1944 in Normandy. According to www.theghostarmy.org, “the weapons they deployed were decidedly unusual: hundreds of inflatable tanks and a one-of-a-kind collection of sound effects records. Their mission was to use bluff, deception, and trickery to save lives. Many were artists, some of who would become famous, including a budding fashion designer named Bill Blass.”

Their mission remained classified until 1996.

McKay’s tank is to be used in a Veterans Day event in Rhode Island.

“Working closely with Rick Beyer was one of the thrills of my career,” said McKay, whose balloons have been appeared in parades all over the U.S., as well as Santiago, Chile; Edinburgh, Scotland; London; and Paris.

“The balloon project took time as we wanted to get as close and accurate to the real look and feel of the 1940s models. The project took over five months to re-create. It was an honor to be a part of something not only historical, but that helped save over 30,000 lives during World War II.”

McKay’s father, John Mazzant, was a World War II veteran, serving as a half track driver and sharpshooter for Gen. George S. Patton’s 12th Armored Division.

“I will always be deeply indebted to my father and all the great men and women of that time who made supreme sacrifices to keep our country safe,” McKay said. “Their expression of courage has helped humanity continue to carry on as time goes by.”

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