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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History & Fun Facts

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City

New York City's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade continues to be the official kick-off of NYC's holiday season. Every year, the Macy's Parade is seen by more than 3.5 million people who line the streets of New York and another 50 million people who tune into NBC to watch the giant balloons, one-of-a-kind floats, the nation's best marching bands, hundreds of cheering clowns and a host of celebrities! Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to visit NYC!

On Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 9am, the dazzling spectacle begins! Stepping off with its signature giant helium character balloons, fantasy-filled floats, marching bands, performance groups and a gaggle of clowns, America's Parade is a non-stop pomp and pageantry for spectators young and old.

Book a Thanksgiving and Macy's Parade Holiday Vacation

Thanksgiving Day Parade HistoryFun Facts About Macy's ParadeParade Route & Viewing the Parade
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon - Frosty the SnowmanOn November 27, 1924, the first Macy's Christmas Parade stepped off from Convent Avenue and 145th Street in New York City. Four hundred employees accompanied by scores of animals, from camels to elephants, with bands, balloons, and floats in tow, took to the streets to begin an American holiday tradition that has become a part of our lives and a piece of Americana.

Conceived by Macy's employees, many of whom were European immigrants, the Parade was a celebration of the Christmas season rooted in the traditional festivals of their homelands.

In that spirit, Herbert Strauss, President of R.H. Macy & Co., took out newspaper ads which promised "a surprise New York will never forget!"

An estimated quarter million spectators witnessed this auspicious event as the parade wound its way down to Macy's Herald Square for Santa Claus' unveiling of Macy's Christmas windows on 34th Street.

For almost 80 years, the words "Let's Have a Parade!" have continued to stir the emotions of millions of people across the country and around the world. The spirit of that small band of 1924 Macy's employees lives on today with the participation of more than 4000 volunteers on the famous 2 1/2 mile march through Manhattan's streets.
  • 1927 Macy's asks theatrical designer and creator of Macy's Christmas windows, Tony Sarg, to design giant balloons which would become the signature pieces of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Filled with helium, Sarg's first designs - Felix the Cat, the Dragon, the Elephant, and the Toy Solider - are a huge success. Those first balloons would explode upon release, as their creators had forgotten that helium expands at high altitudes.
  • 1928 Macy's experiments with an air and helium mixture that is used to this day. That same year sees another first: at the end of the parade, the balloons are released into the air as a fitting climax.
  • 1929 Balloons, including the Dachshund, are equipped with a return address and an offer of a prize. In following years, the Dachshund Balloon lands in the East River, and two tugs race madly for the prize, tearing it to pieces in the process.
  • 1931 Clarence Chamberlain, an aviator flying above New York City, catches the Pig Balloon in midair in an effort to collect the reward money. The following year, an aviator almost crashes into Broadway in an attempt to catch the Cat Balloon.
  • 1933 After a few close calls, the practice of releasing the balloons is stopped in the interest of public safety.
  • 1930s Celebrities, such as Benny Goodman and Harpo Marx, join in the Thanksgiving Day festivities.
  • 1934 Tony Sarg and Walt Disney create balloons including Mickey Mouse, the Big Bad Wolf, the Little Pig, and Pluto.
  • 1939 Children's comic book favorites, including Superman, are introduced, paving the way for pop culture icons to be incorporated into the parade.
  • 1950s Stars including Jackie Gleason, Shirley Temple, and Jimmy Durante, join the parade.
  • 1955 The Parade telecast moves to NBC after a two-year stint with CBS. Macy's and NBC have enjoyed a broadcast relationship ever since.
  • 1957 Popeye the Sailorman sails into the parade.
  • 1958 Air-filled balloons are brought down the parade route on cranes due to a helium shortage.
  • 1962 The first year the Parade featured sports champions, including Willie Mays, Otto Graham, Jack Dempsey, and Ralph Terry.
  • 1963 The Elsie the Cow Balloon heralds the arrival of the World's Fair in Queens, New York. Also this year: The parade marches on as floats are draped in black the week following the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • 1969 Macy's Parade Studio moves to its current home in Hoboken, NJ, in the former Tootsie Roll factory.
  • 1960s Lorne Greene and Betty White host the telecast from 1962 to 1971. In 1962, Tony Bennett first appears and will return in 2001.
  • 1975 The Dino the Dinosaur Balloon is inducted into the American Museum of Natural History as an honorary member.
  • 1977 "Parade Lady" Jean McFaddin, who will become a 24-year Macy's veteran, takes the helm of the parade.
  • 1970s Carson sidekick Ed McMahon co-hosts from 1971 to 1981.
  • 1986 Sesame Street's Big Bird flies for the first time in the parade. In 2001, a brand-new Big Bird Balloon was introduced.
  • 1989 The parade takes to the street despite its first snow storm.
  • 1980s Diana Ross and Sammy Davis, Jr. are just two of the celebrities from the film, television, and music worlds to join the fun.
  • 1993 Sonic the Hedgehog Balloon introduces the first video game character to the line up.
  • 1996 Rugrats becomes the parade's first three-character balloon.
  • 1999 Ask Jeeves becomes the first Internet-inspired character.
  • 1990s Pop and country stars such as Shania Twain and NSYNC take center stage.
  • 2000 The Parade welcomes "Bandleader Mickey" - the third time the beloved Mickey Mouse has made an appearance.
  • 2001 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates 75 years of making magic for the holidays!
  • 2009 Mayor Bloomberg announces new route for the Macy's Parade, avoiding Broadway altogether.
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