AMERICA’S PARADE – History of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2011


  • The first parade in 1924 was called “Macy’s Christmas Parade” although it took place on Thanksgiving Day. It was later renamed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • Live animals including camels, goats, elephants and donkeys were a part of the parade that inaugural year.
  • The original parade route started at 145th Street and Convent Avenue and traveled 5.5 miles to 34th Street and Herald Square.
  • In the first Macy’s parade horses pulled the floats.
  • In 1925 and 1926, bears, lions and tigers were added to the live animals used. This practice was discontinued because some animals scared children along the line of march.
  • In 1927, Macy’s replaced the live animals in the parade with its now signature giant helium balloons created by famed puppeteer and Macy’s designer Tony Sarg. The first balloons included Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant and Toy Soldier.
  • 1928 saw the first release of the giant Balloons at the end of the parade.
  • Equipped with a return address label in 1929, Macy’s began offering prizes for the return of the giant balloons.
  • In 1931, Clarence Chamberlain, an aviator flying above New York City, caught the Pig Balloon in mid-air in order to claim the $25 reward money. The practice of releasing the balloons was discontinued in 1933.
  • Santa Claus has ended the Macy’s parade every year with the exception of 1933, the only year when he led the parade.
  • The 1933 edition of the parade was the first-ever recorded for newsreels and subsequently shown in theatres around the world.
  • The Macy’s parade was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II. At the start of the war, Macy’s donated the balloons (that where made of rubber at the time) to the government’s rubber scrap heap in a ceremony held at New York’s City Hall.
  • In 1947, the holiday classic, “Miracle on 34th Street”, brought the parade’s magic to theatres worldwide.
  • In 1948, NBC began telecasting the grand spectacle nationwide and spectators from coast-to-coast began referring to the parade as the “Macy’s Day Parade.”
  • Due to a helium shortage in 1958, Macy’s inflated the balloons with air and hoisted them on trucks with cranes for the journey down Broadway.
  • In 1969, Macy’s Parade Studio moved to Hoboken, New Jersey into the former home of a Tootsie Roll Factory.
  • The Dino, the dinosaur balloon, was inducted into the Museum of Natural History in 1975 as an honorary member.
  • In 1977, the parade telecast introduces Broadway show performances.
  • In the 1980’s, the smaller novelty balloons were introduced, including Macy’s stars and the 30 ft. triple-scoop ice cream cone. “Falloons” were also introduced at this time. A combination of float and cold air balloons, a highlight of the creativity of the Macy’s Parade Studio.
  • In 1989, the parade marched through its very first snowstorm.
  • The 1990’s saw the parade balloons adding new characters from the internet, videogames and contemporary cartoons. Sonic the Hedgehog, Bart Simpson and the Rugrats were just a few of these balloons.
  • Since its inception, the parade has attracted a sea of celebrities. Always a reflection of current popular culture, performers over the years have included Harpo Marx, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis, Jr, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West, among others.
  • In its 85-year history more than 350,000 Macy’s employees have participated in the parade.
  • More than 50,000 clowns have delighted millions of children along the parade route.
  • In 2004, Macy’s introduced another new parade innovation. The “Balloonicle,” a combination cold air balloon and self-propelled vehicle. The Weebles were the first characters to take on this new form.
  • In 2005, the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery series, which recreates works of modern art as flying wonders, debuts with “Humpty Dumpty” by Tom Otterness. In subsequent years “Rabbit” by Jeff Koons, “Figure with Heart” by Keith Haring and “Kaikai & Kiki” by Takashi Murakami have taken flight. This year, Tim Burton’s B. will join this select group.
  • For the 85th anniversary parade, Macy’s will debut new tricycloons, another new Parade Studio creation – part tricycle, part balloon.

Source & Photos: Macy’s


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