Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts around 3.5 million spectators and is watched by another 40 or 50 million more via live broadcasts. Because everybody loves the spectacle and tradition of more than 1,500 dancers, 1,000s of clowns, and 30+ parade floats traveling downtown from the Upper West Side to Macy’s flagship department store on 34th Street.
Here are some fun facts about the parade since its debut in 1924. A lot has changed in 91 years, except the wide-eyed wonder and magic.
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- The parade was originally named the “Macy’s Christmas Parade”, started by store employees who wanted to celebrate the holiday season with an event similar to their hometown European Christmas festivals.
- The original 5.5 mile route had floats, workers marching, clowns and even some live animals like lions, tigers and elephants borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.
- In 1927, Macy’s decided rename the parade and gear it towards Thanksgiving. The company also introduced cartoon character floats.
- One of the first balloons ever used was Felix the Cat. He returned in 2016 in a version modeled after the original 1927 balloon of the cartoon character, using the same techniques that were used in the 20’s. That includes being carried by poles, not lines, which means Felix is not as high-flying as his more modern high-tech balloon friends.
- More than 50 million people will be watching the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television and 3.5 million people watching along the parade route.
- The longest balloon in the parade is the Red Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger measuring 77-feet long. Just one of his arms is the size of a standard school bus.
- More than 40 gallons of florescent paint and 5 barrels of glitter were used to create the flames on the character balloon, Eruptor from “Skylanders.”
- It takes more than 800 internal tie-lines to keep SpongeBob SquarePants afloat. Spongebob Squarepants was the first-ever square balloon in the Parade.
- Thomas the Train will be chugging along the parade route once again. The balloon measures 51-feet long, 23-feet wide, 47-feet tall, making Thomas the parade’s largest balloon by helium volume. It contains the most balloon fabric ever used to design one character.
- The highest hair award goes to one of the newest balloons, Poppy of Dreamwork’s “Trolls,” Branch and Guy Diamond. Both Trolls’ iconic hair stands more than 12-feet tall and it’s one of the parade’s widest balloons, at 38 inches.
- The parade features 16 giant character balloons; 24 novelty, balloonicles, balloonheads, and trycaloons; 26 floats; 12 marching bands, 1,100 cheerleaders/dancers; and more than 1,000 clowns some of who attend a clown school before marching.
- More than 8,000 volunteers march along the parade each year.
- Santa Claus has always been the last float in the parade to kick off the holiday season– except for one year in 1933 when someone decided Santa should be at the front of the line.
- Since 1927 there have been 174 giant character balloons in the parade.
- The The Elf On The Shelf has been a parade staple since 2012. The Elf on the Shelf is also the tallest ballon at 64-feet.
And finally –
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may seem larger than life, but there are some restrictions.
Balloons must stay under three stories tall, so they fit under lampposts and other traffic signs, and they cannot be wider than the narrowest street on the route. Those dimensions are 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide.
The balloons arrive deflated on their annual trek through the Lincoln Tunnel from the Macy’s storage spot in New Jersey.
Watch them get inflated at the annual Balloonfest the night before the parade, on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History.
If you can’t make it to New York City to see the parade live (or you’d rather catch the floats in warmer weather), head to Florida. Several balloons and floats are shipped to Universal Studios where the parade is recreated as “Macy’s Holiday Parade” which runs daily in December.
photos courtesy Macy’s
This article is adapted from one published by FoxNews Travel.