Millions of people tune in at 9am EST on Thanksgiving Day each year to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wind its way through Manhattan. For many families, it is part of their holiday tradition. The parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning with its grand finale hovering around noon. That’s the case for all time zones, so broadcast spectators don’t have to worry about adjusting their schedule for East Coast time. On Nov 25th, grab a cup of coffee and slice of pumpkin pie, then sit back and start the holiday season with a time honored tradition, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Did You Know…
- Philadelphia actually has the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade: Its Gimbel’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debuted in 1920.
- The first Macy’s parade in 1924 was a Christmas parade and included three floats (pulled by horses), four bands and zoo animals from the Central Park Zoo. Santa Claus was last in the lineup, a tradition that continues to this day.
- The parade was renamed the Thanksgiving parade three years later when the first helium balloon, Felix the Cat, was added to the lineup.
- The Macy’s parade is second only to the US Government in helium usage.
- In 1958, there was a helium shortage. So, the balloons were filled with air and kept afloat using cranes.
- In the earlier years of the parade, the balloons were released at the end of the parade. Anyone who found the balloons received a prize from Macys.
- At its inception, the parade route was over 111 city blocks (about 6 miles long). Today, the route is about 2.65 miles.
- Typically, more than 4,000 volunteers help in setting up and handling the balloons for the Macy’s parade. During the parade, some balloons weigh hundreds of pounds and require as many as 50 handlers during the parade.
- The first broadcasts of the parade were on the radio in 1932.
- In 1934, celebrities became an important element of the parade, with singer-actor Eddie Cantor joining the event that year. The Mickey Mouse balloon also first appeared in the parade that year.
- From 1942 to 1944, the parade was canceled because of the shortage of helium and rubber during World War II. Those three years are the only time the celebration has been called off. When the parade returned in 1945, it was broadcast on television for the first time.
- In 1957, the Popeye balloon’s hat filled with water and drenched parade watchers.
- In 2020, Macy’s celebrated its 94th year with 26 floats, 18 giant helium character balloons, 16 performers and 9 street performances. It did not march down the streets of Manhattan, but instead broadcast from a location near its flagship store, incorporating social distancing measures and encouraging everyone to watch the event on tv.