Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by Macy's Department store. The three-hour event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving.


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 States holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started by Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger's store was transferred to New York by Macy's. In New York, the employees marched 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 Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. 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 & 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.

As 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. [] Address labels were sewn into them, so that whomever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's []

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 through 1941.

The parade was suspended for the duration of 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 currently follows (see below). 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 telecast nationally in 1952 (see below). 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 such as songs from Broadway musicals use pre-recorded music with the performers lip-syncing their singing.

Macy's also sponsors the smaller Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 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/Boscov's) was first held in Philadelphia in 1920. Other cities include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade of Chicago, Illinois and parades in: Plymouth, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Fountain Hills, Arizona. Since 1994, a "rival" of sorts, called the Parade Spectacular, has been run in Stamford, Connecticut. 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 2 parades. (Macy's in fact has sponsored this parade in a lesser fashion in the past.)

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 History in New York City. 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 Technology, a local university in Hoboken, NJ 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

*2008: Horton the Elephant
* 2007: Shrek, Hello Kitty, Abby Cadabby
* 2006: Pikachu with Poké Ball (2nd version, first balloon with built-in electric power to light up cheeks), Flying Ace Snoopy (sixth version of the "Peanuts" character, the most ever), 80th Anniversary Hot Air Balloon Replica,
* 2005: Dora the Explorer (first character of Latino descent to appear in parade), Scooby-Doo, Healthy Mr. Potato Head, JoJo
* 2004: SpongeBob SquarePants, Disney's Chicken Little, M&M's (was retired after 2006 parade because of accident in Times Square.)
* 2003: (Strike Up the Band) Barney (2nd version), Super Grover, Garfield (2nd version)
* 2002: Kermit the Frog (2nd version), Little Bill (First African-American character in parade history), Rich Uncle Pennybags, Charlie Brown (chasing elusive football)
* 2001: Bandleader Mickey Mouse (3rd version), Ronald McDonald (2nd version), Jeeves, Dragon Tales Curious George, Big Bird (2nd version), Jimmy Neutron, Pikachu (First version; retired after Pokémon Party of the Decade on August 8, 2006), Cheesasaurus Rex
* 1999: Millennium Snoopy (5th version), Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Blue's Clues
* 1998: Babe the Pig, Wild Thing, Dexter
* 1997: Arthur, Rugrats, Bumpé
* 1996: Rocky and Bullwinkle (2nd version), Peter Rabbit
* 1995: Dudley the Dragon, SkyDancer, Eben Bear; Izzy (1996 Summer Olympics mascot)
* 1994: Barney the Dinosaur (First version), The Cat in the Hat (retired after accident in 1997).
* 1993: Beethoven (dog), Rex, Sonic the Hedgehog (first video game character in parade history)
* 1992: Goofy
* 1990: Clifford the Big Red Dog (was claimed to be a "life-sized balloon"), Bart Simpson
* 1989: Bugs Bunny
* 1988: Nestlé Nesquik Bunny, Big Bird, Pink Panther, Snoopy (4th version) with Woodstock.
* 1987: Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, Snuggle Bear, Skating Snoopy (3rd version)
* 1986: Baby Shamu, Humpty Dumpty
* 1985: Betty Boop
* 1984: Garfield, Raggedy Ann
* 1983: Yogi Bear
* 1982: Olive Oyl (first female character to appear in parade), Woody Woodpecker

* 1977: Kermit the Frog
* 1975: Weeble
* 1972: Smile (Happy Face), Mickey Mouse (2nd version; this balloon was to have debuted in 1971, but high winds cancelled the balloons participation.)
* 1968: Aviator Snoopy (1st version; was redesigned the following year as "Astronaut Snoopy" in tribute to Apollo 11., thus becoming second version)
* 1966: Smokey Bear, Superman (2nd version; largest balloon ever used in the parade)
* 1965: Underdog
* 1964: Linus the Lionhearted
* 1963: Dino the Dinosaur, Elsie the Cow
* 1951: Lucky Pup
* 1934: Mickey Mouse
* 1927: Felix the Cat (First balloon used in parade)

Novelty balloon Introductions

*2007: Artie The Pirate, Baseball, Rabitt by Jeff Koons, Parade Balloon Cluster, Planet Earth, Soccer Ball
*2006: Green Candy Cane, Handprint Stars, Ice Cream Cone
*2005: Wiggle Worm, Candy Canes, Snow Crystals, Poinsettias
*2004: Uncle Sam

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.
* 2006: Energizer Bunny (B)
* 2005: SnowBo (B)
* 2004: Weebles (B) - (3) Tibby, Tooey, Bumpus

Float introductions

* 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
* 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.

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

Broadway shows

Every year, a number of Broadway shows perform in the parade. The 2007 parade was notable as it took place during I.A.T.S.E. strike of 2007, and as such, Legally Blonde, the one performing musical affected by the strike, performed in show logo shirts, with make-shift props and no sets. The other 3 shows perform in theaters which were not affected by the strike.

*2007: Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Young Frankenstein, Xanadu

Television coverage

More than 44 million people watch the parade on television each year. NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1955. For many years now the parade, which began its television appearances on CBS in 1952, has been hosted mostly by members of "The Today Show". However, from 1962 to 1971 it was hosted by Lorne Greene (who was then appearing in NBC's "Bonanza"), and Betty White. Today Show's Bryant Gumbel, Ed McMahon and Regis Philbin hosted the telecast into the early 1980s.

At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In the 1960's, they expanded to two hours [ [,9171,829453,00.html TIME ] ] , and by the 1970's, all three hours of it were being televised.

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; In 1995, Al Roker joined the live parade coverage. Matt Lauer picked up hosting duties in 1998 when Willard Scott left. In 2006, the hosting team consisted of Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer and Al Roker; effectively, this is the cast of The Today Show since the parade's first hour (and, as of 2007, the second hour as well) falls within that show's regular time slot. The parade was announced by various NBC announcers like Don Pardo and Bill Wendell. In 1999, "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" announcer Joel Goddard took over. 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.

Since 2003, parade coverage has been simulcast in Spanish language on NBC Universal-owned Telemundo. Parade coverage has won nine Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Special Event Coverage since 1979.

While NBC and Telemundo serve as the parade's official broadcasters under an agreement with Macy's, the parade itself occurs on public streets, meaning that Macy's cannot prevent other broadcasters from broadcasting their own coverage. For several years, CBS also televised portions of the parade as part of its wraparound "All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade" coverage, which included parades in Detroit, Nashville (later replaced by Miami) and, for reasons unexplained, two month old taped footage from the "Aloha Floral Parade", which is held in Honolulu every September. Since 2002, the remaining wraparound segments have been dropped with coverage focusing exclusively on the New York parade, under the title "The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS," without the endorsement of Macy's. (This lack of endorsement also means that parade events, e.g. musical performances, that are timed to the NBC coverage may not appear on CBS; to compensate, CBS will substitute other taped performances.)

Houston, Texas, St. Louis, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan are the largest television markets to have the parade pre-empted for locally based parades. Houston's CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV, covers the annual march through downtown Houston, and WDIV-TV in Detroit pre-empts NBC coverage for that city's "America's Thanksgiving Day Parade". And for years, KSDK-TV pre-empted NBC's coverage for the local Thanksgiving Day Parade in St. louis, but now (as of 2007) KMOV-TV carries the event. Because the coverage is carried by two networks, viewers in those cities can watch the Macy's parade on the other network's station, and thus the parade is not entirely pre-empted in those markets.

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, France that year.

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 Harlem and ended at Herald Square, a 6½-mile route. (In Manhattan the higher street numbers are north) The Parade adopted its current 2½-mile-long route in 1945 when NBC began televising the parade. Beginning at the intersection of 77th Street and Central Park West, the route heads south along Central Park. At Columbus Circle, the route turns onto Broadway, passes through Times Square, and continues southward to Macy's, turning west onto 34th Street, and continuing to 7th Avenue, where the floats are taken down. 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.

The shortened Parade route offered at least one convenience: it eliminated the need for the large balloons to be carried under the elevated subway lines. 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 Resort (owned by NBC Universal) to bring balloons and floats from New York to the theme park in Florida 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. []

Incidents and injuries

* In 1993, The Sonic the Hedgehog balloon crashed into a lamppost at Columbus Circle and injured an off-duty police officer. [cite news| url=| title=Site of Balloon Accident Is Known for Its Crosswinds| publisher=New York Times| date=2005-11-27| accessdate=2007-11-16]
* In 1997, high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost. [cite news| url=| title=Macy's Parade of Balloons Gets One Thing It Doesn't Need: Wind| publisher=New York Times| date=1997-11-28| accessdate=2007-11-16] The falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and leaving her in a coma for a month. Size rules were implemented the next year, eliminating larger balloons like the Cat in the Hat. [cite news| url=| title=Macy's presents safer parade| publisher=CNN| date=1998-11-26| accessdate=2007-11-16]
* In 1997 the wind was so strong, the Barney balloon was cut, and had to be out from the rest of the parade.Fact|date=December 2007
* 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. [cite news| url=| title=New safety rules for NYC Thanksgiving parade after balloon crash| publisher=Associated Press| accessdate=2006-10-18] 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 theatre and musicals.
* In 2006, the low-flying Spongebob balloon caught on a lampost in Herald Square, but no injuries were reported. Spectators chanted "Free Spongebob!", cheering once a police officer and a concerned father released him.Fact|date=November 2007

Helium shortage

In 2006, parade organizers decided to use fewer balloons in response to a worldwide shortage of helium. Organizers, in fact, talked of not using any balloons at all, but decided to compromise due to public demand. [ NBC telecast coverage, 11/23/06 ]


SpongeBob SquarePants, the Energizer Bunny and Pikachu with Poké Ball is shown tied down before the 2006 parade.
Shrek_in_2007.Image:HK.jpg|Hello_Kitty_in_2007.Image:Pikachu_ThnksgvDayParade.jpg|Since_2001,_a_Pikachu balloon has been flown in the parade, demonstrating the popularity of Pokémon. This balloon was used from 2001 until 2005, and a new standing Pikachu debuted in 2006.


ee also

* New York's Village Halloween Parade

Further reading

* Grippo, Robert M., Christopher Hoskins, "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade", Arcadia Publishing 2004

External links

* [ Official Macy's Parade site]
*Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade History". [ The official website for New York City tourism] . Retrieved September 22, 2004.
* [ Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Orlando]

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