The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkins- the typical things that one may think of when picturing Thanksgiving day. And if you’re in New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For 95 years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been the official kick-off to the holiday season. Each year, millions of people swarm the streets of Manhattan to be part of the thrilling spectacle of floats, dancers, and singers. If you are not bearing the frigid weather and crowded streets, then you may be watching the event at home. Either way, millions of people around the country have tuned into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade for almost 100 years, so let’s take a look at where it all started!

Christmas day of 1924 marked the first ever Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Macy’s employees filled the streets in all sorts of fun costumes, alongside Central Park zoo animals, and traveled 6 long miles from Herald Square to Harlem. The event drew in over 250,000 people and became an annual NYC event when Macy’s saw that their company promotion turned into a hit!

Felix the Cat became the first giant balloon to take the air in the 1927 parade. Since then, the Macy’s parade floats have continued to grow. In 1934, Disney joined in on the parade and introduced the Mickey Mouse balloon. In the late 90s, floats like Spongebob, Pokemon, and the Peanut characters all made appearances. We have all grown up watching these immense floats evolve, whether it be in person or on TV. The first national radio broadcast of the parade took place in 1932, and was first televised in 1946.

Did you know? In 1927, NYC parade organizers inflated Felix the Cat with helium, and when they couldn’t deflate him they just released him into the air. For the next few years, employees would just release the floats after the parade. Floats consisted of a return address and whoever found and returned them would receive a prize from Macy’s!

Each year, 3.5 million people attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. One Maspeth High School student actually experienced the parade first hand. Penelope Ortiz (c/o 2020) attended the parade when she was 13 years old. She says she “had an amazing experience and particularly enjoyed all of the Christmas floats at the end of the parade”. Penelope recalls having to get up extremely early to get into the city for a place to sit. If you do not like crowds then this event is not for you because there are millions of people, a limited amount of seats, and hours of waiting;however, if you can get past the masses of people then the overall experience is “once in a lifetime and unforgettable”. Over the years, any NYC event has proven to be overcrowded but sometimes worth the experience, because television does not always do the event justice.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has continued its annual tradition for almost 100 years;however, there have only been two instances, since its start, where the parade has had to be cancelled. From 1942 to 1944, the parade was temporarily suspended in an effort to donate all rubber and helium materials to the American military for World War II. In 1971, the parade still took place but was the first time it did not consist of any balloons, due to heavy rain and wind. This year, strong winds could potentially mark the third instance in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade history where balloons will have to be grounded. Parade organizers are still assessing the weather conditions for this year's parade, in order to ensure the safety of all the attendees.

So now that you’ve learned all that there is about one of America’s greatest holiday traditions, how about experiencing the spectacle in person? The 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place this Thursday (Nov. 28th) at 9am. Consider bringing some family and friends to this once in a lifetime event! And if you aren’t up to bearing the cold weather then tune in live on NBC and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Source: The Maspeth Messenger
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