Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


For over 75 Years, Macy's has given us a tradition which both celebrates America and calls forth Christmas.

How did this most famous of American parades get started?
In the 1920's many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the American holiday with the type of festival they loved in Europe.

The employees marched from 145 Street down to 34th Street dressed as clowns, cowboys, knights and sheiks. There were floats, professional bands and 25 live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.

With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was a hit!

Large balloons first appeared in 1927 with Felix the Cat. One tradition long gone is the releasing of the balloons. They would float for days and the lucky finder could claim a prize!

Through the 1930's, the Parade grew and grew. Depression-era crowds of over 1 million lined the Parade route by 1934.

New balloons such as Walt Disney characters were among the favorites and radio audiences were able to hear the ceremonies and Santa's arrival at 34th Street.

The 1940's saw an end to the Parade since there wasn't much to celebrate during World War II. Also, the rubber and helium could not be wasted.

The Parade resumed in 1945, and was televised in New York. The Parade also began the route that it still runs today.

With nationwide television, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade assumed it's hold on the entire nation in the 1950's.

It also became a time for celebrities. Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye, and even Howdy Doody made appearances.

The Parade has always been known for its policy of going on rain or shine and the valiant efforts of the balloon wranglers should always be recognized.

The most bittersweet year of the Parade had to be 1963. Less than a week after President Kennedy's assassination, the country was still in mourning. But, it went on so as not to "disappoint the millions of children."

In 1971, the winds were so bad, the balloons had to be cancelled. Television viewers had to settle for clips from the 1970 Parade.

Through the 1960's, 70's and 80's, some of the favorite balloons appeared including Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, and Superman.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a true New York experience that is magical for both children and adults. We want to thank Macy's and wish them many more years of marching down Broadway!

(Information and photos courtesy of

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