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26 Fun Facts About The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 🦃

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💡 The 2024 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will take place on Thursday, November 28, 2024 from 9 AM to 12 PM.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For many families it’s a tradition to watch the festivities together before the grand turkey feast starts. Whether live or on television. The parade, presented by the department store Macy’s, is now so popular that it’s even broadcasted outside of the United States.

But what’s the deal with those giant balloons and colorful floats? Why are there so many comic characters? And why is Santa Claus always closing the parade?

In this article we’ll share with you 26 fun facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Opening of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Courtesy of Macy’s)

The very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held on November 27, 1924 and originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade.” It’s purpose was to celebrate the opening of Macy’s Manhattan flagship store and to get people there to buy holiday gifts. The parade was so successful that Macy’s decided to organize the event annually.

Until 1927 the parade featured live animals such as bears, elephants and monkeys, that were on loan from Central Park Zoo. However, visitors were scared of these powerful animals being so close to them and the costs of cleaning up the streets after the parade became too high. That’s when puppeteer Tony Sarg sparked the idea to use helium balloons.

The first balloon made its debut in 1927 and was a 21 feet tall “human behemoth.” Unfortunately, there are no pictures of that balloon. However, several newspapers reported about it at that time.

The balloons were a full success and kids loved them! Each year, new characters were introduced. Felix the Cat appeared in 1927, Mickey Mouse in 1934, Pinocchio in 1937 and the rest is history.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 because of World War II and shortages of rubber and helium.

Designing a balloon is not an easy task. In fact, it takes a long time to master the technical tools needed to design and manufacture the perfect balloon. That’s why there are exclusive Macy’s balloon designers, known as “balloonatics.”

$190,000 – That’s the price to get a balloon into the parade lineup (including admission, design and construction). After its first appearance, companies have to carve out $90,000 to get their balloon featured again.

Prefer a float instead? That’ll be $500,000 to $3 million!

What’s the most popular Macy’s parade balloon? Well, the character with the most appearances is definitely Snoopy! Since 1968, the balloon has appeared at over 40 parades in different designs. The second most featured character is Ronald McDonald, followed by Rocky and Bullwinkle!

The tallest balloon ever was Olive Oyl with Swee’Pea from The Popeye Show (102 feet high). The longest balloon was a dragon that was featured in 1929 (178 feet long). The widest balloon was Woody Woodpecker (45 feet width).

Before inflation, balloons weigh around 400 pounds. The heaviest balloon to date is SpongeBob SquarePants and Gary (896 pounds), followed by Goku (796 pounds) and Bart Simpson (750 pounds).

It takes a team of 80 to 100 human handlers per balloon to keep it from becoming airborne. To qualify as a handler, one must weigh at least 125 pounds (before Thanksgiving Dinner)!

Did you know that you can get an early sneak peek of the balloons before they are featured at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? That’s right! Each year you can watch the balloons unfold at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation event. The event happens in the afternoon before Thanksgiving Day in front of the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.

It takes about 45 to 90 minutes to inflate and only 15 minutes to deflate a balloon.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the world’s largest parade.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 parade was a broadcast-only event in an effort to avoid crowds. It was held in the Herald Square area and balloons were tethered to vehicles instead of being carried by handlers.

The parade has been televised since 1953 on NBC. They also hold the rights to broadcast the parade.

More than 50 million people nationwide will follow the parade online and on television.

Each year, about 3.5 million spectators line up on the streets to watch the parade.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts at 9 AM and lasts until 12 PM (ET).

The parade route has been modified a couple of times (2009, 2012 and 2020). Currently it starts on the Upper West Side (77th Street) and changes its path to Midtown (6th Avenue) at Columbus Circle. One thing is guaranteed though, the parade always ends in front of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square (34th Street). You can find the current route here.

Santa Claus Closing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Courtesy of Macy’s)

$11 to $12 million – That’s how much the event costs.

It is estimated that the parade’s costumes are worth $2 million.

Balloons and floats are designed, manufactured and stored at the Macy’s parade warehouse in New Jersey. Each item can be no more than 40 feet tall and 28 feet wide. Additionally, floats must be designed with the ability to fold down into a 12-foot-by-8-foot transportation box to get them through the Lincoln Tunnel to New York City.

The parade usually features at least 15 character balloons, 25 floats, and 10,000 parade participants (including clowns, cheerleaders, music artists, marching bands, etc.).

And what’s up with Santa always closing the parade? Traditionally Santa Claus ends the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to symbolize the official start of the Christmas shopping season.

Which of these facts surprised you the most? Our personal favorite was the price of a float… that knocked us off the chair! If you’re planning on visiting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and need help organizing your trip, feel free to reach out to us! We’ll be more than happy to help you plan your Thanksgiving in New York!


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