An annual tradition for families across America, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade ushers in the holiday season with a display unlike any other. Watching the marching bands, colorful floats, lively performances and enormous character balloons tower over the streets of Manhattan is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey dinner and football.
What was originally started by a small group of Macy’s employees and known as the “Macy’s Christmas Day Parade,” is now in its 89th year and bigger than ever. Learn more fun facts and interesting numbers below.
Even if you don’t quite understand the difference between a “Falloon” and a “Balloonicle,” you’ll soon have plenty of tidbits to share at the Thanksgiving table. (To catch you up on your parade lingo, a “Falloon” is a balloon on a large float, a “Balloonicle” is a cold air balloon on a self-propelled vehicle, and a “Trycaloon” is part tricycle/part balloon.)
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Facts
- Every year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is watched by 3.5 million people in New York and 50 million people at home.
- Before balloons were the main attraction, animals including camels, monkeys and elephants borrowed from the Central Park Zoo marched in the parade. At one point lions, tigers and bears (oh, my) were introduced, but had to be discontinued because they scared the children (and probably the adults, too!).
- Felix the Cat was among the first of the Parade’s signature giant balloons, which made their debut in 1927. Since then, over 100 character balloons have made their way through New York City’s streets. The character with the most balloons in the history of the Parade is Snoopy—this year’s will be the 7th version!
- For the first couple of years, the large helium balloons were intentionally released at the end of the Parade, but would quickly pop after reaching a certain height. In 1929, safety valves that slowly released the air allowed the balloons to gracefully float up and away—which they could do for miles and several days! Each balloon came with a return address label, and those who found and returned them were offered a prize from Macy’s.
- From 1942-44 the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was cancelled due to World War II. The balloons were donated to the war effort, providing 650 pounds of scrap rubber.
- When the Parade first started in 1924 it was almost six miles long! Today, the 2 ½ mile parade route kicks off at 77th Street and Central Park West and makes its final stop in front of Macy’s Herald Square. Click here for this year’s parade route.
- The Parade was first televised locally in 1946 and nationally in 1947. Twelve broadcasts since 1979 have been awarded the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement.
- In 1996, another tradition started – watching the balloons gets inflated on the Upper West Side on the day before Thanksgiving.
- More than 8,000 volunteers help to make the Parade possible every year. And a lot of clowns. Over the years, more than 50,000 clowns have made spectators laugh along the parade route.
- Santa has ended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year except for 1933, when he led it.
The tradition continues on NBC on Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 9 a.m. Will you be watching?