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The parade logo
The arrival of Santa Claus at the parade's finale marks the start of the Christmas season

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by Macy'smarker. The tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States, tied with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroitmarker, and four years younger than the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphiamarker. The three-hour event is held in New York Citymarker starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day.


In the 1920s many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United Statesmarker holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

In 1924, the inaugural parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade.) was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlemmarker to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoomarker. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Squaremarker. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies." With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.

Large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.

At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days.[87482]Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's [87483]

Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941, and resumed in 1945 through 1951.

The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008 . The parade became a permanent part of American culture after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which shows actual footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948 . By this point the event, and Macy's sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism "Macy's Day Parade".

Macy's also sponsors the smaller Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, held two days after the main event. Other cities in the US also have parades on Thanksgiving, but they are not run by Macy's. The nation's oldest Thanksgiving parade (the Gimbels parade, now known as 6abc-Ikea) was first held in Philadelphiamarker in 1920. Other cities include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade of Chicago, Illinoismarker and parades in Plymouth, Massachusettsmarker; Seattle, Washingtonmarker; Houston, Texasmarker; Detroit, Michiganmarker; and Fountain Hills, Arizonamarker. A parade is also held at the two U.S. Disney theme parks. Since 1994, a "rival" of sorts, called the Parade Spectacular, has been run in Stamfordmarker, Connecticutmarker, about 30 miles northeast of New York Citymarker. It is run on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to not directly compete with the Macy's parade and the balloon characters are not duplicated between the two parades. (Macy's in fact has sponsored this parade in a lesser fashion in the past.). Perhaps because of its location in the New York metropolitan areamarker, this parade gets up to 250,000 spectators per year and is the most-attended holiday balloon parade in the U.S. after the Macy's event [87484]. However, it can only be seen on television via local cable within Fairfield Countymarker.

New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. Also, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions.


Balloon inflation

The balloons for the parade are inflated the day before (Wednesday) on both sides of the American Museum of Natural Historymarker in New York Citymarker. The balloons are split between 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The inflation team consists of various volunteers from Macy's as well as students from Stevens Institute of Technologymarker, a local university in Hoboken, NJmarker where the balloons and floats are designed and built. The inflation is open to the public the afternoon and night before the parade.

Balloon Introductions

Balloonicle and falloon Introductions

A falloon (F; a portmanteau of "float" and "balloon") is a float-based balloon. A balloonicle (B; a portmanteau of "balloon" and "vehicle") is a self-powered balloon vehicle.

Float introductions

  • 2009: Local Heros Helping Everyday, There's a Party in My City, Santa's Sleigh (3rd Edition), Yo Gabba Gabba! Float
  • 2008: Bolt, Castle of Dreams, Harajuku Lovers, Meaning of Thanksgiving, Musical Innovation: Bigger Than Life, Shine On
  • 2007: The Care Bears Winter Fun-Derland, International Cele-Bear-Ation Clock Tower, M&M's Chocolate Candies on Broadway, Music Bigger than Life, Barbie as The Island Princess
  • 2006: Barbie & the 12 Dancing Princesses, Doodlebug, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Mother Goose, Space Station Discovery,
  • 2005: Holiday Beat, Krazy Kritters , The Magic of Childhood, 123 Sesame Street, Barbie as the Princess & The Pauper, NFL Classic, Tutenstein, and Voyage to Adventure, Polar Express
  • 2002: Barney's Playtime in The Park
  • 1998: Sesame Street
  • 1987: Marvel Comics
  • 1984: Fraggle Rock
  • 1971: Tom Turkey

Performers and acts

In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the parade also features live music and other performances. College and high school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by famous singers and bands. The Radio City Rockettes are a classic performance as well.

On the NBC telecast from in front of the flagship Macy's store on Broadway and 34th Sreet, the marching bands perform live music but most of the other live acts use pre-recorded music with the performers lip-syncing their singing.

Performers in 2007 included: Ashley Tisdale, Bindi Irwin and her mother, Terri Irwin, Corbin Bleu, Dolly Parton, Good Charlotte, Jonas Brothers, Lifehouse, Menudo, Ne-Yo, Nikki Blonsky, Sarah Brightman, Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, Wynonna Judd, and Jordin Sparks.

Performers in 2008 included: Kristin Chenoweth, Darius Rucker, James Taylor, Charice Pempengco, Miranda Cosgrove, Miley Cyrus, David Archuleta, Idina Menzel and The Clique Girlz; The Cheetah Girls were originally slated to perform as well but were pulled from the itinerary..Also Rick Astley Rickrolled the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends float.

The scheduled list of 2009 performers will include: Tiffany Thornton who is doing a duet with Kermit the Frog. The cast of Glee was supposed to have performed; however, in light of the fact that the show aired on a rival network (Fox), they were pulled from the parade at NBC's request. When one of the show's co-creators, Ryan Murphy, heard of this, he replied, "I completely understand NBC’s position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float." As a replacement act, Keke Palmer is expected to perform her new single. Other performers for 2009 include Bello Nock, the Big Apple Circus, Andrea Bocelli, Boys Like Girls, Alan Cumming, Billy Currington, the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba!, The Roots, Jimmy Fallon, Gloria Gaynor, Emily Hughes, Jane Krakowski, Katharine McPhee, the cast of Sesame Street, Mitchel Musso, the Pizzarelli Quartet, Jay Sean, Ziggy Marley and his daughter Judah, and Carly Simon.

Broadway shows

Every year, cast members from a number of Broadway showsmarker perform either in the parade, or immediately preceding the parade in front of Macy's. The 2007 parade was notable as it took place during a strike by the I.A.T.S.E. (a stage hands' union), and as such, Legally Blonde, the one performing musical affected by the strike, performed in show logo shirts, with makeshift props and no sets. The other 3 shows that year performed in theaters which were not affected by the strike.

Also, every year since 1957, The Rockettes have performed last of the Broadway shows to perform. And as always, they create a human gate to welcome in the parade.

Television coverage

More than 44 million people watch the parade on television each year. It was first televised locally in 1939. After a suspension in 1940–1944, the local broadcast returned in 1945. The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948. NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1955.

At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, then 90 minutes in 1962–1964, back to two hours in 1965, and by 1969, all three hours of it were being televised. The broadcasts have been in color since 1960.

1979 parade
From 1963 to 1971 it was hosted by Lorne Greene (who was then appearing in NBC's Bonanza), and Betty White. Between 1987 and 1997, the NBC telecast coverage was hosted by The Today Show’s Bryant Gumbel and Willard Scott. During that period, their co-hosts were Mary Hart, Sandy Duncan, Deborah Norville, and Katie Couric; from the early 80s until circa 1994, the show was produced and directed by Dick Schneider; since circa 1994, the telecast has been executive produced by Brad Lachman, produced by Bill Bracken and directed by Gary Halvorson. The musical director for the TV coverage is the veteran composer/arranger Milton DeLugg.

For the 1997 parade, MTV guest reporters, Beavis and Butt-head, with host Kurt Loder, provided their usual style of commentary on aspects of the parade, and of their take on Thanksgiving in general. The special, entitled Beavis and Butt-head Do Thanksgiving, includes a balloon of Beavis and Butt-head spectating from their couch. The balloon was not participating in the parade, but stationed on top of a building along side the parade route.

In 2008, a Coca Cola CGI ad aired in the USA during Super Bowl XLII. The commercial's plot consisted of Underdog and fictional Stewie Griffin balloons chasing a Coke bottle-shaped balloon through New York City. The spot ended with a Charlie Brown balloon holding the Coke balloon. The advertisement won a Silver Lion Award at the annual Lions International Advertising Festival in Cannes, Francemarker that year, and the clip of the commercial with the Griffin balloon was featured in a Macy's commercial in October 2008 (along with clips of Miracle on 34th Street, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld and other media where the Macy's department store was mentioned).

Parade route

The Parade has always taken place on Manhattan Island, one of the Five Boroughs that make up New York City. Originally the parade started from 145th Street in Harlemmarker and ended at Herald Square, a 6-mile route. (In Manhattan the higher street numbers are north)

A new route was established for the 2009 parade. From 77th Street and Central Park West, the route goes south along Central Parkmarker to Columbus Circle, then goes east along Central Park South. The parade then makes a right turn at 7th Avenue and goes south to Times Square. At 42nd Street the parade turns left and goes east, then at 6th Avenue turns right again. Heading south on 6th Avenue, the parade turns right at 34th Street (Herald Square) and proceeds west to the terminating point at 7th Avenue where the floats are taken down.

The 2009 route change eliminated Broadwaymarker completely, where the parade has traveled down for decades. The City of New York said that the new route will provide more space for the parade, and more viewing space for spectators. Another reason for implementing the route change is the city's plan to turn Broadway into a pedestrian-only zone at Times Square.

It is not advised to view the parade from Columbus Circle, as due to higher winds in this flat area, balloon teams race through it.

Today, New York City officials preview the parade route and try to eliminate as many potential obstacles as possible, even going as far as rotating overhead traffic signals out of the way.

The parade rehearsal takes place the night prior (usually at midnight), with no balloons.

Macy's Holiday Parade

Since 2002, Macy's Studios has partnered with the Universal Orlando Resortmarker (owned by NBC Universal) to bring balloons and floats from New York to the theme park in Floridamarker every holiday season. The parade is performed daily and includes the iconic Santa Claus float. Performers from the Orlando area are cast as various clowns, and the park invites guests to be "balloon handlers" for the parade. [87485]

Incidents and injuries

  • In 1957, a Popeye the Sailor balloon's hat filled with rain water during a heavy rain, which caused the balloon to get off-course and pour water on the crowd.
  • In 1986, a Raggedy Ann balloon crashed into a lamppost and sent a lamp into the street. The same year, a Superman balloon had its hand torn off by a tree. Neither incident caused any injuries.
  • In 1993, The Sonic the Hedgehog balloon crashed into a lamppost at Columbus Circle and injured an off-duty police officer.
  • In 1994, the Barney balloon tore its side on a lamppost, but no one was injured.
  • In 1995, the Dudley the Dragon balloon that was leading the parade was speared and deflated on a lamppost and showered glass on the crowd below.
  • In 1997, high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost. The falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and left her in a coma for a month. Size rules were implemented the next year, eliminating larger balloons like the Cat in the Hat. The same high winds also caused the New York Police to stab and stomp down the Barney balloon over crowd concerns. They also stabbed a Pink Panther balloon for the same reason. Neither balloon actually caused any injuries.
  • In 2005, the M&M's chocolate candies balloon caught on a streetlight in Times Square. Two sisters were struck by falling debris, suffering minor injuries. As a result, new safety rules were introduced. Those rules came in handy for the 2006 parade, as balloons were lowered because of rain and high winds. The M&M's balloon was retired after 2006, and replaced by a float saluting Broadway theatremarker and musicals.
  • In 2008, Keith Haring's Figure with Heart grazed the NBC booth off camera during the live broadcast, momentarily interrupting the introduction of the next float. Hosts Al Roker, Meredith Vieira, and Matt Lauer were largely silent as viewers heard snippets of their voices. Moments later, Lauer explained the incident, with Vieira motioning to where it hit their booth. No one was injured.

Helium shortage

In 2006, parade organizers used fewer balloons in response to a worldwide shortage of helium. Organizers had talked of not using any balloons, but compromised due to public demand.

Examples of Balloons

Image:Healthy Mr. Potato Head 2006 Parade.jpg|Mr. Potato Head in the 80th paradeImage:2006 Thanksgiving Day Parade.jpg|SpongeBob SquarePants, the Energizer Bunny and Pikachu with Poké Ball is shown tied down before the 80th parade.Image:shrekb.JPG|Shrek in 81st parade.Image:HK.JPG|Hello Kitty in the 81st parade.Image:Pikachu ThnksgvDayParade.jpg Pikachu in the 79th parade

See also


  3. "Santa to Lead a Parade", The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1924, p. 17.
  4. "Big Christmas Parade!" (advertisement), The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1924, p. 7.
  5. "Greet Santa Claus as 'King of Kiddies'", The New York Times, Nov. 28, 1924, p. 15.
  6. WOR schedule, "Today on the Radio", The New York Times Nov. 24, 1932, p. 40. "Radio Today", The New York Times, Nov. 20, 1941, p. 54.
  7. "Radio Today", The New York Times, Nov. 22, 1945, p. 36. "On the Radio", The New York Times, Nov. 22, 1951, p. 58.
  8. "Mayor Plays Role of Dragon Slayer", The New York Times, Nov. 14, 1942, p. 17.
  9. "Get Set, Children, and Your Parents, Too; Genii Are Coming in Thanksgiving Parade", The New York Times, Nov. 14, 1945, p. 27.
  10. Video and photos of Keith Haring balloon
  11. "Spider-Man Returning to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Paradede", Associated Press via WCBS , 17 August 2009
  14. 'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy responds to cast being pulled from Macy's parade
  16. "Television" section of "Today on the Radio", The New York Times, November 23, 1939, p. 40.
  17. "Radio Today" (with television listings), The New York Times, Nov. 20, 1941, p. 54.
  18. "Radio Today" (with television listings), The New York Times, Nov. 22, 1945, p. 36.
  19. "Radio and Television", The New York Times, November 15, 1948, p. 44.
  20. "Radio and Television", The New York Times, November 21, 1949, p. 44.
  21. "Television", The New York Times, November 23, 1961, p. 71.
  22. "Television", The New York Times, November 27, 1969, p. 75.
  23. "Television", The New York Times, November 24, 1960, p. 67.
  29. NBC telecast coverage, November 23, 2006

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