Link Copied

The 89-Year Evolution Of The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The first Macy's Day Parade was on November 27 in 1924. The parade originally featured Macy's employees and live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Floats, instead of balloons, were the main attraction.

The first Macy's Day Parade was on November 27 in 1924. The parade originally featured Macy's employees and live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Floats, instead of balloons, were the main attraction.
Advertisement

The parade began in Harlem at 145th Street and ended in front of the Macy's flagship store on 34th Street. It was originally called the Macy's Christmas Parade, but was renamed the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 1927.

The parade began in Harlem at 145th Street and ended in front of the Macy's flagship store on 34th Street. It was originally called the Macy's Christmas Parade, but was renamed the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 1927.

(Above photo is from 1994)

Advertisement

An estimated 250,000 spectators attended the first parade. Today, about 3.5 million people attend.

An estimated 250,000 spectators attended the first parade. Today, about 3.5 million people attend.

(Above photo is from 2007)

Advertisement
Advertisement

In 1927, Marionette maker Tony Frederick Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons replaced the live animals in the parade.

In 1927, Marionette maker Tony Frederick Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons replaced the live animals in the parade.

Macy's first parade balloon, Felix the Cat, was filled with air, but balloons started to be inflated with helium the following year. The original balloons were made of rubber, but today's balloons are made of polyurethane.

(Above photo is from the 1920s)

Advertisement

Up until 1932, balloons were released into the sky at the end of the parade. Macy's offered a $50 reward to anyone who returned a deflated balloon.

Up until 1932, balloons were released into the sky at the end of the parade. Macy's offered a $50 reward to anyone who returned a deflated balloon.
Advertisement

Floats were pulled by horses up until 1939.

Floats were pulled by horses up until 1939.

Here's video footage of the 1939 parade, the first year horses stopped being used.

(Above photo is from 1927)

Advertisement

Over the parade's history, three main types of balloons have been used: Novelty (smaller balloons), full-sized (five to six stories high), and Blue Sky Gallery (depicts contemporary art) characters.

Over the parade's history, three main types of balloons have been used: Novelty (smaller balloons), full-sized (five to six stories high), and Blue Sky Gallery (depicts contemporary art) characters.

(Above photo is from 1940)

Advertisement

The first Mickey Mouse balloon debuted in 1934, while fellow Disney character Donald Duck was introduced in 1962.

The first Mickey Mouse balloon debuted in 1934, while fellow Disney character Donald Duck was introduced in 1962.

(From left to right, above photos are from 1934 and 2011)

Advertisement

Today, over 2,000 volunteers are needed to handle the balloons. Each volunteer must weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health. Each balloon is handled by about 50 volunteers. A police officer also marches alongside each balloon.

Today, over 2,000 volunteers are needed to handle the balloons. Each volunteer must weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health.   Each balloon is handled by about 50 volunteers. A police officer also marches alongside each balloon.
Advertisement

Since 1984, a majority of the parade's balloons have been made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, SD.

Since 1984, a majority of the parade's balloons have been made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, SD.

(Above photo is from 1946)

Advertisement

During WWII's rubber and helium shortage, the parade was halted and balloons were deflated and donated to the government.

During WWII's rubber and helium shortage, the parade was halted and balloons were deflated and donated to the government.

(Above photo is from 2008)

Advertisement

Since 1945, the parade has started at 77th Street and Central Park West and ended in Herald Square in front of Macy's.

Since 1945, the parade has started at 77th Street and Central Park West and ended in Herald Square in front of Macy's.
Advertisement

This year, the parade runs along Central Park and down 6th Avenue until it reaches Macy's at 34th Street.

This year, the parade runs along Central Park and down 6th Avenue until it reaches Macy's at 34th Street.
Advertisement

The parade became a more prominent part of American culture after footage from the 1946 parade was featured in the movie "Miracle on 34th Street."

The parade became a more prominent part of American culture after footage from the 1946 parade was featured in the movie "Miracle on 34th Street."
Advertisement

In 1948, the parade was broadcast for the first time on network television.

In 1948, the parade was broadcast for the first time on network television.

According to Nielsen, an estimated 14.2 percent of American households watched the CBS coverage of the parade in 1951. In recent years, approximately 30 million people tune into CBS's and NBC's coverage of the parade.

(Above photo is from 1995)

Advertisement

Though CBS was the original network to air the parade, NBC has been the parade's official television broadcaster since 1952.

Though CBS was the original network to air the parade, NBC has been the parade's official television broadcaster since 1952.

CBS's broadcast is called "The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS."

(Above photo is from 2002)

Advertisement

Initially, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, then 90 minutes between 1962 and 1964, back to two hours in 1965, and by 1969, three hours of it were being televised.

Initially, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, then 90 minutes between 1962 and 1964, back to two hours in 1965, and by 1969, three hours of it were being televised.
Advertisement

The Radio City Rockettes have appeared in the parade since 1957.

The Radio City Rockettes have appeared in the parade since 1957.

In order to be a Rockette, a dancer must be between 5'6" and 5'10½" and demonstrate proficiency in tap, jazz, modern dance, and ballet. They must also be able to perform the signature eye-high kick.

(Above photo is from 1958)

Advertisement

Helium shortages in both 1958 and 2006 led to less balloons in the parade.

Helium shortages in both 1958 and 2006 led to less balloons in the parade.

(Above photo is from 2006)

Advertisement

In 1997, wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour caused many balloons to deflate.

In 1997, wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour caused many balloons to deflate.

(Above photo is from 1997)

Advertisement

Broadway appearances have been a parade regular since 1980 when the cast of "The Pirates of Penzance" were featured. In last year's parade, the cast of "Annie" performed.

Broadway appearances have been a parade regular since 1980 when the cast of "The Pirates of Penzance" were featured. In last year's parade, the cast of "Annie" performed.

(Above photo is from 2012)

Advertisement

Over the 88-year history of the parade, there have been numerous injuries caused by balloon issues. The most serious injury occurred with a Cat in the Hat balloon in 1997 and resulted in the implementation of balloon size restrictions.

Over the 88-year history of the parade, there have been numerous injuries caused by balloon issues. The most serious injury occurred with a Cat in the Hat balloon in 1997 and resulted in the implementation of balloon size restrictions.

In 1997, the Cat in the Hat balloon was pushed into a lamp post by high winds. Falling debris fractured 33-year-old Kathleen Caronna's skull and put her in a month-long coma.

In 2006, wind measurement devices were installed to alert parade organizers to any unsafe balloon-flying conditions.

(Above photo is from 1994)

Advertisement

After 9/11, Macy's reintroduced an old Harold the Fireman balloon from 1948 to commemorate those who helped in the aftermath of the attacks.

After 9/11, Macy's reintroduced an old Harold the Fireman balloon from 1948 to commemorate those who helped in the aftermath of the attacks.

(From left to right, above photos are from 1948, and 2001)

Advertisement

Starting in 2005, the original parade logo has been swapped out for a new logo every year.

Starting in 2005, the original parade logo has been swapped out for a new logo every year.

Besides being used in publicity material and the ID badges worn by the parade staff, the official parade logo is rarely seen.

See this year's logo here.

(Above photo is from 2003)

Advertisement

This year's parade will feature five new floats and several new balloons, including Toothless from DreamWorks Animation's popular "How To Train Your Dragon."

This year's parade will feature five new floats and several new balloons, including Toothless from DreamWorks Animation's popular "How To Train Your Dragon."
Advertisement

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by the numbers...

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by the numbers...

3 hours of parade fun broadcasted on NBC.

7 versions of the infamous Snoopy balloon have been featured since the parade's start.

12 parade broadcasts since 1979 have won Emmys for outstanding achievement.

50 volunteers are needed to handle each balloon.

$50 was awarded to anyone who retrieved deflated balloons in the early days of the parade.

87 years since the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

650 lbs. of scrap metal from deflated balloons were donated to the war effort in 1942-1994.

8,000 participants are set to join the parade route.

3.5 million people will watch the parade in New York.

50 million viewers will tune into the live television broadcast.

(Photo is from 2011)

Advertisement

You've seen the process behind the Thanksgiving Day Parade ...

You've seen the process behind the Thanksgiving Day Parade ...

Now Check Out 17 American TV Shows That Started In Other Countries >

Advertisement