History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Parade Bands


A brief history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The first Parade in 1924 was called the “Macy's Christmas Day Parade” although it took place on Thanksgiving Day. In 1927 it was renamed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Live animals including camels, goats, elephants and donkeys were a part of the Parade that inaugural year.

The original Parade route started at 145th Street and Convent Avenue and traveled 5.5 miles to 34th Street and Herald Square.

In the first Parade horses pulled the floats. A particular white steed, that was to aid in the Ben-Hur float, disappeared at the last minute before the start of the Parade.

In 1925 and 1926, bears, lions and tigers were added to the live animals used but this had to be discontinued because they scared the children along the line of march.

In 1927, Macy's replaced the live animals in the Parade with its now signature giant helium balloons. The first balloons included Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant and Toy Soldier.

1928 saw the first release of the giant Balloons into the air at the end of the Parade. Equipped with a return address label, in 1929, Macy's began offering prizes for the return of the giant balloons.

In 1931, Clarence Chamberlain an aviator flying above New York City catches the Pig Balloon in mid air in order to claim the $25 reward money. The practice of releasing the Balloons was discontinued in 1933.

Santa Claus has ended the Parade every year except in 1933 the only year when he led the Parade.

The 1933 edition of the Parade was the first ever recorded for newsreels and subsequently shown in theatres around the world.

The Parade was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II. At the start of the war, Macy's donated the Balloons (that where made of rubber at the time) to the government’s rubber scrap heap in a ceremony held at New York’s City Hall.

In 1947, the holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street, brought the Parade’s magic to theatres worldwide.

In 1948 NBC began telecasting the Parade nationwide, as spectators from coast-to-coast began referring to the Parade as the “Macy's Day Parade.”

Due to a helium shortage in 1958, the U.S. Government asked Macy's to go light on the use of the gas. Macy's decided to inflate the Balloons with air and hoist them on trucks with cranes for the journey down Broadway.

In 1969 the Macy's Parade Studio moved to its current home in Hoboken, New Jersey in the former Tootsie Roll Factory.

The Dino the Dinosaur Balloon was inducted into the Museum of Natural History in 1975 as an honorary member.

In 1977, the “Parade Lady” Jean McFaddin took the helm of the Parade, which she leads for the next 24 years.

In the 1980’s, the smaller “novelty” balloons were introduced, including the Macy's stars and the 30 ft. triple-scoop ice cream cone.

“Falloons” were also introduced at this time. A combination of float and cold air balloon, a highlight of the creativity of the Macy's Parade Studio.

In 1989, the Parade marched through its very first snowstorm.

The 1990’s saw the Parade Balloons adding new characters from the Internet, videogames and contemporary cartoons. Sonic the Hedgehog, Jeeves and the Rugrats were just a few of these Balloons.

In the past 77 years the Parade has attracted a sea of celebrities. The years have seen Harpo Marx, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis, Jr., Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, NSYNC, Shania Twain, and Christina Aguilera, among others.

Macy's is the world’s second largest consumer of helium. The United States Government is the first.

In its 77-year history more than 300,000 Macy's employees have participated in the Parade. More than 50,000 clowns have delighted millions of children along the Parade route.

In 2004, Macy's introduces another new Parade innovation. The “Balloonicle,” a combination cold air balloon and self-propelled vehicle.

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