Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with it, our varied traditions. One tradition that many of us share is watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - which is in its 96th year! I thought it might be fun to share a brief history of the parade as we all prepare to gather with family and friends this Holiday Season. Thanks for following along and I hope you enjoy this quick read.
- Patrick Dolat, Shopkeeper @ Newport Lamp & Shade Company
The following excerpts and photographs were taken directly from History.com, Wikipedia and Today.com
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1934,
the same year Mickey Mouse made his debut
NY Daily News Archive
When did the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade first start?
The Parade first took place in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States. The two and a half mile, three-hour parade is held in Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day from 9am to 12pm Eastern Standard time, and it has been televised nationally on NBC since 1953. The Parade's workforce is made up of Macy's employees and their friends and family, all of whom work as volunteers.
Radio City Rockettes in 1958
NY Daily News Archive
Wait, what parade came before Macy's?
The idea of a store-sponsored Thanksgiving parade originated with Philadelphia’s Gimbel Brothers Department Store, which first staged a Thanksgiving procession in 1920 with 50 people, 15 cars and a fireman dressed as Santa Claus who ushered in the Christmas shopping season. J.L. Hudson’s Department Store in Detroit also planned a similar event in 1924.
Notable balloon figures seen in the Parade over the years....
The Mickey Mouse balloon made his debut in 1934, the Tin Man in 1939 (a few months after the release of "The Wizard of Oz")... Kermit The Frog appeared in 1977, Superman in 1980 (the third largest balloon ever) and Olive Oyl in 1982. The list is extensive...
The Tin Man in 1939, as seen from the sixth floor of a building in Time's Square
Who makes the balloons?
The balloons were introduced in 1928, replacing live zoo animals. Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons were produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio from the 1920s through 1980. From 1984 to 2019, the balloons were made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, through its Raven Aerostar division.
"Andy the Alligator" in 1933 - quite a bit smaller than today's floats!
Did Macy's ever miss a year?
The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 as a result of World War II and because the rubber and helium used to make the balloons was needed for the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 and became known nationwide shortly afterwards, having been prominently featured in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 parade was downsized and closed to the public—being filmed as a broadcast-only event in the Herald Square area.
In 2021, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned to its traditional in-person procession with 6,500 participants marching in the Parade and approximately 2.5 million spectators lining the streets to watch the event.