Tuesday, November 25, 2014

History of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

 Macys, Inc.

I'm so looking forward to watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Here are some random facts and history, if you're interested...


In 1924 the first parade, then called 'Macy's Christmas Parade', was held in New York. It consisted of 400 employees, zoo animals, floats, balloons and bands. 

Felix the Cat was the first giant balloon character- he didn't come along until 1927.  

In 1929, the giant balloons were equipped with a return address and set loose at the end of the parade. Anyone to bring back the deflated balloon would receive a prize.

After the parade in 1931, an aviator by the name of Clarence Chamberlain caught the Pig balloon in midair. 

In 1933, after a few close calls with planes and buildings, the practice of releasing balloons was ceased.
1934 debuted the first Mickey Mouse- he was designed with the help of none other than Walt Disney himself.

Here's Mr. Claus in 1940- do you notice anything about him? Looks like he's put on quite a bit of weight in the past 74 years!

A clown and hippo from the parade in 1941.

During the years of 1942, 1943, and 1944 the parade was cancelled due to World War II.

Is anyone a fan of Miracle on 34th Street? The above photo was taken while filming for the movie during 1947's parade and captures Edmund Gwenn in character as Santa Claus. This was also the first year the parade was televised nationally.

Due to a helium shortage in 1958, the balloons were carried down Broadway by giant construction cranes.

Bullwinkle, 1961, captured in color.

1963 is the only other year that the parade was almost cancelled, as the nation was still in shock from President John F. Kennedy's assasination one week prior.

Kermit the Frog in 1977. Do you think those balloon handlers walk backward for the entire parade? Apparently it's quite hard to become a balloon handler- you have to have a Macy's sponser (employee) as 1,500 slots are saved for their family and friends, and each year there is a 98% return rate. Handlers must be at least 18 and weight 120 pounds - the pull from the balloons can be anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds!


Here's one of my childhood favorites from the 1980s, Strawberry Shortcake. Who can spot the Purple Pieman?

2014 brings us over 8,000 volunteers, just a few more than the 400 that participated in the parade's maiden voyage in 1924. There are estimated to be over 3.5 million spectators lining the streets. There will be 52 giant balloons, 30 floats and 900 clowns.

Do you watch the parade? What are you favorite parts?

PS. More historic photos from TIME.

[All photos via Macy's, Inc.]

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