Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been kicking off the Christmas season for over 90 years now, spreading the magic and joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas to all those who watch. It's a tradition that embodies the true spirit of the holiday season, that can be passed down for generations to come.
On November 27th of 1924, R. H. Macy & Co. held the first "Macy's Christmas Parade", now known as "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade". The company, at the time, was mostly employed by immigrants, so the employee created the parade insipred by the Christmas celebrations of their home countries. Four Hundred of Macy's employees filled Covenant Aveneue and 145th Street in New York City. They borrowed animals from the Central Park Zoo and built floats to accompany them in the parade. It was estimated that a quater million people witnessed the first parade, which led all the down to 34th Street where Macy's then unveiled it's Christmas window display. The parade was such a hit that they decided to make it an annual event.
In 1927, Macy's asked their window designer, Tony Sarg, to design giant balloons (such as the one above) to accompany the walkers in the parade. Some of Sarg's first designs were Felix the Cat, a dragon, and a toy soldier. These balloons were released into the air upon the end of the parade. However, they soon popped as they got higher into the sky due to the helium expanding because of the high altitude. If you want to share Tony's story with your kid,s there's a wonderful book called "Balloons on Broadway" written by Melissa sweet, which I highly recommend.
By 1929, Macy's decided to add a little more fun to the magic they were creating. It was this year that they created a contest where they attach return addresses to the balloon and whoever brings the balloon back gets a prize of $100 dollars. This game was a hit with the spectators. Unfortunately, after almost causing plane crashes by aviators trying to catch these balloons, the contest ended in 1933.
1934 was the year that Tony Sarg first collaborated with Walt Disney and they introduced Mickey Mouse, Pluto, the Little Pig, and the Big Bad Wolf to parade goers.
The above image is from 1941, but the parade would take its only haitus from 1942 to 1944 in order to conserve Helium for World War II. The company deflated many balloons and donated them to the government for the war, due to rubber and helium shortages.
Fast forward to 1962, in the image above, the Donald Duck balloon tipped over when his hat filled with water due to the rain. This was also the first year that sports champions were featured in the parade, including Willie Mays, Jack Dempsey, and Otto Graham.
From 1962 to 1971 Betty White and Lorne Greene host the television broadcast of the parade. Tony Bennette also first appears in 1962 and eventually returned in 2001.
Having first appeared in the parade in 1963, Dino the Dinosaur was so popular that in 1975 he was inducted to the American Natural History Museum as a honorary member.
In 1989, despite the parade first ever snow storm, Bugs Bunny makes his first Macy's Parade debute.
By 1993 Tommy, Chuckie, and Spike, from the Nickaloden cartoon, "Rugrats" join the parade. Being the parade's first ever three person balloon.
2000, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade welcomes Mickey Mouse back to the parade for a third time. This time as bandleader Mickey Mouse.
2001 marks the 75th anniversery of the Parade!
Despite the helium shortage of 2006, the parade continues to add new balloons every year, based on new pop culture characters. The parade now draws more than 50 million views a year and has over 4 thousand volunteers nation wide.
2016 marked the parades 90th anniversary. 90 years of filling the country with magic and making memories for the whole family. The parade has been kicking off the Christmas season for many years now and it continues to allow families to share this Thanksgiving day traditon.