The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The "Here Comes Santa Clause" Float in the 1950s at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The most popular holiday parade in America, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade NY has been a Big Apple tradition since 1924. Attracting more than 3.5 million people to the streets of New York City each year, as well 50 million TV viewers nationwide, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving tradition in NYC that it's often shortened to "The Macy's Day Parade."
Like any great tradition in NYC, the Macy's Day Parade in Manhattan features a long and storied history. Check out the NYC Macy's Day Parade time-line below for the most interesting facts about the Thanksgiving Day Parade NYC. Find more information on the annual Macy's Day Parade, including when to go, where to stand, and the Thanksgiving Day Parade route in Manhattan, right here, at our Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade page.
Macy's Day Parade: The Beginnings
The first-ever Macy's Day Parade actually took place on Christmas of 1924. Macy's employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other fun costumes, and traveled with Central Park zoo animals and creative floats a lengthy six miles from Herald Square to Harlem in Manhattan.
NYC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: The Humpty Dumpty Float- 1926
The parade was meant to draw attention to the Macy's store in NYC, and the gimmick worked - more than 250,000 people attended the inaugural Macy's Day Parade. It was decided that this NYC parade would become an annual NY event in Manhattan.
In 1927, Felix the Cat became the first giant balloon to ever take part in the Macy's Day Parade. In 1928, Felix was inflated with helium, and without a plan to deflate this massive balloon, NYC parade organizers simply let Felix fly off into the sky. Unfortunately, he popped soon thereafter.
The Macy's Day Parade continued to let the balloons fly off in subsequent years, only these balloons would have a return address written on them, and whoever found the balloon could return the balloon for a prize from Macy's. However, the results of this experiment weren't exactly successful.
Photos of the Macy's Thankgiving Day Parade from the 1970s - 1980s
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Continues to Grow
The Eddie Cantor Balloon in the 1940 Thanksgiving Day Parade New York
Despite the Great Depression, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade continued to grow through the 1930's. The first national radio broadcast of the Macy's Parade Thanksgiving took place in 1932. Two years later, Disney got in on the giant balloon fun, introducing the Mickey Mouse balloon in 1934. By then, more than one million people were attending this popular parade in NYC, and those fortunate enough to own a TV could see the broadcast on NBC starting in 1939.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York was temporarily suspended from 1942- 1944 for World War II. In an effort to help America's cause, the rubber used to make the Macy's Day Parade floats were donated to the American military. More than two million people attended the 1945 Macy's Day Parade, and this popular New York City event has continued to grow ever since.
Today, more than 8,000 people participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade each year, and it takes another 4,000 dedicated volunteers to put together this NYC Thanksgiving celebration. Both NBC and CBS broadcast the New York City parade nationwide, and this NYC event still attracts high-profile musicians and the most talented Broadway performers.
Click here or a list of past performers, floats, and balloons in the annual Macy's Day Parade in NYC.
Scroll down for a list of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade historical dates and fun facts!
Fun Facts about the NYC Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Did you know...
Like today, children then also loved the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
- The inaugural Macy's Day Parade took place on Christmas, 1924.
- Over 250,000 people attended the first Macy's Day Parade in NYC.
- In 1927, Felix the Cat became the first giant balloon featured at the Macy's Day Parade.
- The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade New York was first broadcast on the radio in 1932.
- One million people attended the 1933 Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.
- In 1934, Mickey Mouse made his giant balloon debut at this famous New York City parade.
- The Macy's Day Parade floats were pulled by horses until 1939.
- 1939 was also the first year NBC broadcast the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. NBC continues to be the official broadcast station of the Macy's Parade, though CBS also carries the parade unofficially. 50 million viewers tune in to this New York parade each year.
- Because of Word War II, there was no Macy's Day Parade from 1942-1944. During that time, the rubber and helium originally meant to blow up the famous Macy's balloons were donated to the American military.
- The 1945 Macy's Day Parade surpassed 2 million people in attendance.
- Six days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade went ahead as scheduled in hopes of raising the national spirit.
- Snoopy - the Peanuts character created by Charles Schultz - holds the distinction of having the most Thanksgiving Day NYC Parade floats, with six different balloons since 1968.
- Because of heavy rain, the 1971 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade was forced to ground all giant balloons, making it the first Macy's Parade without balloons since 1926.
A dachsund parade balloon in Times Square - 1950s
- Today's Macy's Day Parade features over a dozen giant balloons, nearly 30 parade floats, 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, more than 750 clowns, several marching bands from around the country, and over 8,000 participants in all!
- The giant balloon inflation is open to the public, and takes place from 3pm-10pm the evening before Thanksgiving on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Ave.
- 4,000 volunteers take the time each year to put on this NYC Thanksgiving celebration.
- The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route is 2.65 miles long.
- 3.5 million people attend the Macy's Day Parade each year.
- The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is the second-oldest in the country, behind the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.
To find out what performers, floats, and balloons you can expect at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, visit our Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade News page!