History of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

History of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Every Thanksgiving Day, 3.5 million people line the streets of Manhattan and 50 million viewers tune in at 9 a.m to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The three hour parade shows off many giant balloons, floats, performers and bands to get ready for the holiday season. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has set a tradition for families since the 1920s.

Many Macy’s employees immigrated from Europe to America in the 1920s, and they wanted a celebration similar to the festivals they loved in Europe. In 1924, Macy’s employees started the annual parade by featuring floats, professional bands and animals from the Central Park Zoo. The parade was such a success with 250,000 people as an audience, so Macy’s declared it would be an annual event.

The animals from the Central Park Zoo were replaced in 1927 by the giant character balloons we enjoy today. Felix the Cat was the first ever character balloon. Since then over 100 characters have floated in the parade, such as the first Mickey Mouse that debuted in 1934. Snoopy has appeared in the parade more than any other character, and Snoopy’s 7th balloon version makes its appearance during this year’s parade.

At the end of the earlier parades, the balloons were released into the air. Previously the balloons would just pop, but in 1929 newly added safety valves slowly allowed the helium to be let out. Inside these balloons were return address labels, and Macy’s offered a $50 reward for those who returned the balloons. This was discontinued in 1932 when a pilot almost crashed attempting to capture a balloon.

The only years that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was suspended was from 1942-1944. Due to the rubber and helium shortages during World War ll, the balloons were deflated and donated to the government, providing 650 pounds of scrap rubber for the war effort. In 1945 the parade resumed, and the audience surpassed two million people that year.

The parade was first broadcasted on network television in 1948 on CBS, but NBC has been the official broadcaster of the parade since 1959. Twelve of the broadcasts since 1979 have been awarded an Emmy for outstanding achievement.

Today, more than 8,000 volunteers participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade each year along its 2.65 mile long route. Be sure to be a part of this Thanksgiving tradition and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday morning.