Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Info

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Location
Central Park to Macy's Herald Square New York
Admission

Free

Hours

9am - 12:30pm

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloons

Along with spectacular marching bands, festive dancers and singers, and popular celebrities, Macys parade balloons help contribute to one of the most beloved celebrations in the world.  These extravagant gentle giants wow the crowd as they soar through Midtown Manhattan every Thanksgiving morning.  In 1924, when the parade first began, real animals were used from the Central Park Zoo until they were later replaced with balloon animals in 1927.  Felix the Cat, showcased by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, was the first balloon animal to ever hit Broadway and begin a tradition that would be held close to New York’s dynamic history.

How Macy's Parade Balloons Are Made

Large groups of spectators watch the balloons be filled with massive amounts of helium in the ritual the night before the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Spectators watch the balloons be filled in the balloon-filling ritual the night before the Thanksgiving Parade.

The big balloon parade preparations are just as interesting as when the balloons appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Macy’s Parade Studio’s lead designer and Vice President John Piper and ten expert artists, sculptors, mold makers, and designers devote countless hours to designing, calculating, and constructing these massive creatures into larger-than-life exhibits.  It takes approximately one year to design the characters from computer-generated renderings to miniature clay molds.  Next, the balloon characters are put through a series of trial inflations and test flights before they can make their Broadway debut.  Three weeks before the Macys Thanksgiving Parade, each new balloon is flown under the direction of a captain, pilot, flight management team of 14 people, and 70 balloon handlers who are all given instructions on how to fly and support the balloon.  This event has notoriously been deemed, “Balloonfest” and is the final test before characters like Buzz Lightyear and Charlie Brown can hit the stage Thanksgiving morning.  Once the balloons have been approved, they are free to take part in the ritual the night before the parade and fill with massive amounts of helium as spectators watch from 3pm to 10pm between 77th Street and 81st Street.

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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Characters

Every year Macy’s announces a handful of new balloon characters that dazzle the crowd and grace the skies.  However the classic cast members that every parade-goer adores will never disappear from the celebration. 

Provided by the Jim Henson Company, Kermit The Frog maintained his legacy as one of the most traditional characters in American history.

Provided by the Jim Henson Company, Kermit The Frog maintained his legacy as one of the most traditional characters in American history.

  • Big Bird: From Sesame Street, fully equipped with his red scarf and green musical notes, Big Bird made his debut as a gigantic helium figure in 1988.  Weighing in at 468 pounds, he reached 63 feet long, 28 feet wide, and 46 feet tall.  Big Bird needed over 50 handling lines to ensure he did not float away.
  • Clifford, The Big Red Dog: Introduced by Scholastic Incorporated, Clifford, The Big Red Dog lived up to his name stretching to 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 44 feet high.  Clifford needed nearly 40 balloon handlers to help keep him grounded and over 12,500 cubic feet of helium to stay afloat. 
  • Kermit The Frog: Provided by the Jim Henson Company, Kermit The Frog reached to an impressive 78 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 61 feet high.  Needing over 11,000 cubic feet of helium to stay level, Kermit maintained his legacy as one of the most traditional characters in American history.
  • Ronald McDonald: Making his first appearance in 1967, Ronald McDonald soared high above the skies reaching to 44 feet high, 63 feet long, and 23 feet wide.  Requiring 55 balloon handlers to hold him down, Ronald was filled with 12,500 cubic feet of helium!  Helping him make his journey on Thanksgiving morning were his gigantic inflated shoes, each measuring 22 feet long and 8 feet wide.
  • Uncle Sam: A proud citizen who represents everything American, Uncle Sam made his way down the march in patriotic spirit.  The red, white and blue figure was first introduced in 1938 and flew until 1940.  The present-day Uncle Sam balloon is a direct replica of the original 1938 masterpiece.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloonheads

Along with full body balloon characters, big balloonheads also play a huge role in the Macy’s Day Parade as the celebration gets bigger and bigger every year.  The Macy’s big balloon parade paid tribute in 2010 with a gigantic float of balloonheads depicting Mount Rushmore.  Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt all floated down the streets as parade-goers cheered on the founding fathers of our nation.  The parade’s first balloonhead family was introduced in 1931 as Mama, Papa & Baby.  Fast-forwarding to the new millennium, Mama, Papa & Baby made a comeback appearance in 2003, restoring the renowned balloonhead tradition.  Delighting millions through the use of technology and aeronautical science, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade character balloons and balloonheads maintain a tradition that has been proven to never go out of style.