Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States and one of the most famous event of its kind. The annual parade is presented by the upscale department store chain Macy’s.

In the 1920s, a great portion of Macy’s employees were first-generation immigrants from Europe. They were proud of their new American heritage and wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, combining American customs with European festival traditions. The inaugural Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924. The employees dressed up in bright costumes and marched to Macy’s flagship store located on 34th street. The parade featured floats, professional bands and even live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The event was a huge success, attracting over 250,000 viewers.

Three years later, live animals were replaced by large animal-shaped balloons filled with helium. They were designed by professional puppeteer Tony Sarg and produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Since 1984, they have been made by Raven Aerostar.

The balloons are one of the parade’s signature features. They come in two varieties, novelty balloons and full-size balloons. Novelty balloons consist of smaller balloons, they are handled by between one and thirty people. Full-size balloons are handled by 90 people. Traditionally, full-size represent licensed pop culture characters such as Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pinocchio, Popeye, Smokey Bear, Superman, Kermit the Frog, Woody Woodpecker, Betty Boop, SpongeBob SquarePants, Paddington Bear, Scrat, etc. The parade also features falloons (float-based balloons) and balloonicles (self-powered balloon vehicles).

The parade’s participants are Macy’s employees, their families and friends or others who have a relationship with the elements and/or partners of the parade. This participation policy has been existing since the very beginning. The only exception is invited performing talent (celebrities, marching bands and cast members from Broadway shows).

Since 1980, cast members from a number of Broadway shows has performed either in the parade or immediately preceding the event. Shows that have performed include Guys and Dolls, Grease, Cabaret, Annie Get Your Gun, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, Wicked, The Boy From Oz, A Chorus Line, Legally Blonde, In the Heights, Shrek, Kinky Boots, Something Rotten!, and others. The parade usually features shows that debuted that year.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade always takes place in Manhattan, although its route has changed over the years. The three-hour event starts at 9 am EST on Thanksgiving Day. It is televised nationally on NBC.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Photo by Peter Roan




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