The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the largest celebration of its kind. Over 3.5 million people watch the parade along the parade route in Manhattan and another 50 million watch at home on television. For many there is no substitute for seeing the floats, enormous balloons and marching bands in person. If you’re planning to view the parade in person from the streets of New York City, this is your insider guide for making the most of it. This year, Hello Kitty and Papa Smurf will be among those making an appearance in Midtown.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, often shortened to Macy's Day Parade, is an annual parade presented by the U.S. chain store business Macy's. The tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States along with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, with both parades four years younger than the 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. The three-hour event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day.
In the 1920s, many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States parade of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe. In 1924, the parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies." With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event. Anthony "Tony" Frederick Sarg loved to work with marionettes from an early age. After moving to London to start his own marionette business, Sarg moved to New York City to perform with his puppets on the street. Macy's heard about Sarg's talents and asked him to design a window display of a parade for the store. Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.In the 1920s, many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States parade of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.
In 1924, the parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since,Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies."With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.
At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's.
Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941, and resumed in 1945 through 1951.
The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became a permanent part of American culture after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which shows actual footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948. By this point the event, and Macy's sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism "Macy's Day Parade".
|Hello Kitty Balloon new for 2012|
Since 1984, the balloons have been made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, SD.
Macy's also sponsors the smaller Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, held two days after the main event. Other cities in the US also have parades on Thanksgiving, but they are not run by Macy's. The nation's oldest Thanksgiving parade (the Gimbels parade, now known as 6abc-IKEA) was first held in Philadelphia in 1920. Other cities include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade of Chicago, Illinois and parades in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington;Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Fountain Hills, Arizona. A parade is also held at the two U.S. Disney theme parks. There is even a 2nd Thanksgiving balloon parade within the New York metropolitan area, the UBS balloon parade in Stamford, CT, 30 miles away. This parade is held the Sunday before Thanksgiving to not compete with the New York parade and usually does not duplicate any balloon characters.
The classic "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" logo (seen on right) was, with one exception, last used in 2005. For 2006 a special variant of the logo was used. Every year since a new logo has been used for each parade. The logos however are seen rarely, if at all, on television as NBC has used its own logo with the word "Macy's" in script and "Thanksgiving Day Parade" in a bold font. The logos are assumed to be for Macy's use only, such as on the Grandstand tickets and the ID badges worn by parade staff. The Jackets worn by parade staff still bear the original classic parade logo, this being the only place where that logo can be found.
New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. Also, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions. If wind speeds are forecast to be higher than 34 miles per hour, all balloons are removed from the parade.
In 2007, the journal Puppetry International published a first person account of being a balloon handler.
The balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade come in three varieties. The first and oldest is the novelty balloon class, consisting of smaller balloons, some of which fit on the heads of the performers. The second, and most famous, is the full-size balloon class, primarily consisting of licensed pop-culture characters. The third and most recent is the "Blue Sky Gallery," in which the works of contemporary artists are transformed into full-size balloons.
The following is a list of balloons that have, over the years, been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, sorted by their first year in the lineup.
- 2012: Hello Kitty (second version), Papa Smurf, The Elf on the Shelf, Kaws's "Companion"
- 2011: Sonic the Hedgehog (second version), Paul Frank's "Julius the Sock Monkey," Tim Burton's "B"
- 2010: Greg Heffley, Po from Kung Fu Panda, Virginia O'Hanlon, Takashi Murakami's "Kaikai and Kiki"BSG
- 2009: Pillsbury Doughboy, Sailor Mickey Mouse (4th version), Ronald McDonald (3rd version), Spider-Man (2nd version)
- 2008: Horton the Elephant, Buzz Lightyear, Smurf, Keith Haring's "Figure with Heart"BSG
- 2007: Shrek, Hello Kitty, Abby Cadabby, Jeff Koons's "Rabbit"BSG
- 2006: Pikachu with Poké Ball (2nd version), Energizer Bunny, Flying Ace Snoopy (6th version)
- 2005: Dora the Explorer, Scooby-Doo, Healthy Mr. Potato Head, JoJo, Tom Otterness's "Humpty Dumpty"BSG
- 2004: SpongeBob SquarePants (character), M&M's, Chicken Little
- 2003: (Strike up the Band)Barney (2nd version), Super Grover, Garfield (2nd version)
- 2002: Kermit the Frog (2nd version), Little Bill, Rich Uncle Pennybags, Charlie Brown
- 2001: Curious George, Big Bird (2nd version), Jimmy Neutron, Pikachu, Cheesasaurus Rex,
|KAWS Companion balloon new for 2012|
- 2000: Bandleader Mickey Mouse (3rd version), Ronald McDonald (2nd version), Jeeves, Cassie Dragon Tales
- 1999: Millennium Snoopy (5th version), Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Blue's Clues, Petulia Pig
- 1998: Babe the Pig, Wild Thing, Dexter
- 1997: Arthur, Tommy Pickles,Chuckie Finster and Spike, Bumpé
- 1996: Rocky and Bullwinkle (2nd version), Peter Rabbit
- 1995: Dudley the Dragon, SkyDancer, Eben Bear
- 1994: Barney the Dinosaur, The Cat in the Hat.
- 1993: Beethoven (dog), Rex, Sonic the Hedgehog (first video game character in parade history), Izzy
- 1992: Santa Goofy
- 1991: Babar the Elephant
- 1990: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bart Simpson
- 1989: Bugs Bunny
- 1988: Big Bird, Pink Panther, Snoopy (4th version) with Woodstock, Nesquik Bunny
- 1987: Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, Snuggle Bear, Skating Snoopy (3rd version), Ice Cream Cone Novelty Balloon
|Macy's Parade 1931|
- 1986: Baby Shamu, Humpty Dumpty
- 1985: Betty Boop, Ornament Novelty Balloons
- 1984: Garfield, Raggedy Ann
- 1983: Yogi Bear
- 1982: Olive Oyl with Swee'Pea (first female character in parade history), Woody Woodpecker,
- 1980: Superman (3rd version, largest balloon to appear in parade)
- 1977: Kermit the Frog
- 1975: Weeble
- 1972: Smile (Happy Face), Mickey Mouse (2nd version), Astronaut Snoopy (2nd version, a tribute to Apollo 11)
- 1968: Aviator Snoopy
- 1966: Smokey Bear, Superman (2nd version)
- 1965: Underdog
- 1964: Linus the Lionhearted
- 1963: Sinclair Oil Dinosaur, Elsie the Cow
- 1962: Donald Duck
- 1961: Bullwinkle J. Moose
- 1960: Happy Dragon
- 1957: Popeye
- 1954: Spaceman
- 1951: Lucky Pup, Mighty Mouse, Flying fish
- 1950: Freida the Dachshund
- 1949: Toy soldier
- 1948: Harold the Fireman (4th version)
- 1947: Artie The Pirate, Harold the Police Officer (3rd version); Kit, Charlie and C.J. Elf Gnomes
|Macy's Balloon 1952, the "Space Man"|
- 1946: Harold the Baseball Player (2nd version)
- 1945: Harold the Clown (1st version)
- 1940: Eddie Cantor, one of only two balloons based on a living person or people, The Tin Man
- 1939: Superman
- 1938: Uncle Sam
- 1937: Dragon
- 1935: The Marx Brothers (after Zeppo Marx's departure)
- 1934: Mickey Mouse
- 1931: Mama, Papa and Baby
- 1927: Felix the Cat
|Popeye in 1968|
The Night Before
Balloon Inflation 3 p.m. -10 p.m.
Route Changes For 2012
|Parade 1973, Linus the Lion|
Where to Watch
Tips, Tricks And Things To Remember
|Betty Boop, 1995|