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Macy's Parade

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Macy's Parade

"Macy's Day Parade" redirects here. For the Green Day song, see Warning (Green Day album).

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Official 2011 parade logo.
Format Parade
Starring Dave Garroway (1952–1961)
Betty White (1962–1972)
Lorne Greene (1962–1972)
Ed McMahon (1971–1982)
Bryant Gumbel (1982–1984)
Pat Sajak (1983–1986)
Willard Scott (1987–1997)
Deborah Norville (1989-1990)
Katie Couric (1991–2005)
Meredith Vieira (2006–2010)
Ann Curry (2011)
Matt Lauer (1998–present)
Savannah Guthrie (2012–present)
Al Roker (1995–present)
Jean McFaddin (1977–2000)
Robin Hall (2001–2010)
Amy Kule (2010–present)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 86 (as of November 22, 2012)
Location(s) Central Park to Macy's Herald Square
New York
Running time 3 Hours
(with commercials)
Production companies Macy's
Brad Lachman Productions[1]
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original run November 24, 1927 (1927-11-24) – November 22, 1951 (1951-11-22) (radio)
November 25, 1948 (1948-11-25) – present (television)
Related shows Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks
Macy's Ballonfest
My Macy's Holiday Parade
Lighting of the Macy's Great Tree
Christmas in Rockefeller Center[1]
External links

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by the U.S. chain store business Macy's. The tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States along with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, with both parades four years younger than the 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. The three-hour Macy's event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day.


In the 1920s, many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States parade of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.[2]

In 1924, the parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade[3]) was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes.[4] There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.[5] At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies."[6] With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.

Anthony "Tony" Frederick Sarg loved to work with marionettes from an early age. After moving to London to start his own marionette business, Sarg moved to New York City to perform with his puppets on the street. Macy's heard about Sarg's talents and asked him to design a window display of a parade for the store.[7] Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.

At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days.[8] Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's.[8]

Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941,[9] and resumed in 1945 through 1951.[10]

The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort.[11][12] The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became known nationwide after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948 (see below). By this point the event, and Macy's sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism "Macy's Day Parade".

Since 1984, the balloons have been made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, SD.[13]

Macy's also sponsors the smaller Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, held two days after the main event. Other cities in the US also have parades on Thanksgiving, but they are not run by Macy's. The nation's oldest Thanksgiving parade (the Gimbels parade, which has had many sponsors over the years is now known as 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade) was first held in Philadelphia in 1920. Other cities include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade of Chicago, Illinois and parades in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Fountain Hills, Arizona. A parade is also held at the two U.S. Disney theme parks. There is even a 2nd Thanksgiving balloon parade within the New York metropolitan area, the UBS balloon parade in Stamford, CT, 30 miles away. This parade is held the Sunday before Thanksgiving to not compete with the New York parade and usually does not duplicate any balloon characters.

The classic "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" logo (seen on right) was, with one exception, last used in 2005. For 2006 a special variant of the logo was used. Every year since a new logo has been used for each parade. The logos however are seen rarely, if at all, on television as NBC has used its own logo with the word "Macy's" in script and "Thanksgiving Day Parade" in a bold font. The logos are assumed to be for Macy's use only, such as on the Grandstand tickets and the ID badges worn by parade staff. The Jackets worn by parade staff still bear the original classic parade logo, this being the only place where that logo can be found.

New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. Also, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions. If wind speeds are forecast to be higher than 34 miles per hour, all balloons are removed from the parade.[14]

In 2007, the journal Puppetry International published a first person account of being a balloon handler.[15]

Balloon introductions

The balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade come in three varieties. The first and oldest is the novelty balloon class, consisting of smaller balloons, some of which fit on the heads of the performers. The second, and most famous, is the full-size balloon class, primarily consisting of licensed pop-culture characters. The third and most recent is the "Blue Sky Gallery," in which the works of contemporary artists are transformed into full-size balloons.

The following is a list of balloons that have, over the years, been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, sorted by their first year in the lineup. Items in italics indicate entries in the Blue Sky Gallery.

Falloon and Balloonicle

A falloon, (F), a portmanteau of "float" and "balloon", is a float-based balloon.

A balloonicle, (B), a portmanteau of "balloon" and "vehicle", is a self-powered balloon vehicle.

Float introductions

Performers and acts

In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the Parade also features live music and other performances. College and high school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by famous singers and bands. The Radio City Rockettes are a classic performance as well, as are cheerleaders and dancers chosen by the National Cheerleaders Association from various high schools across the country. The parade concludes with the arrival of Santa Claus to ring in the Christmas and holiday season.

On the NBC telecast from in front of the flagship Macy's store on Broadway and 34th Street, the marching bands perform live music. Most "live" performances by musicals and individual artists lip sync to the studio or soundtrack recordings of their songs,[18] due to the technical difficulties of attempting to sing into a wireless microphone while in a moving vehicle (performers typically perform on the floats themselves); the NBC microphones used by performers on floats are almost always non-functioning props.

Featured performers

Broadway shows

Every year, cast members from a number of Broadway shows (usually shows that debuted that year) perform either in the parade, or immediately preceding the parade in front of Macy's. The 2007 parade was notable as it took place during a strike by the I.A.T.S.E. (a stage hands' union), and as such, Legally Blonde, the one performing musical affected by the strike, performed in show logo shirts, with makeshift props and no sets. The other 3 shows that year performed in theaters which were not affected by the strike.

Along with the Broadway performances, The Rockettes have performed annually since 1957 as the last of the pre-parade acts to perform.

Special Guests

On the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade invited family members from Tuesday's Children, a family service organization that has made a long-term commitment to those directly impacted by 9/11 and terrorism around the world, to cut the ribbon at the start of the parade with NBC's Al Roker and led the parade with Amy Kule, the Parade's executive producer.

Television coverage

More than 44 million people watch the parade on television each year. It was first televised locally in 1939 as an experimental broadcast.[19] No television stations broadcast the parade in 1940 or 1941, but when the parade returned in 1945 after the wartime suspension, so too did local broadcasts.[20][21] The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948, the year that regular television network programming began.[22][23] NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1952, though CBS (who has a studio in Times Square) also carries unauthorized coverage under the title "The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS."[24] Since the parade takes place in public, the parade committee can endorse an official broadcaster, but they cannot award exclusive rights as other events (such as sporting events, which take place inside restricted-access stadiums) do. The planned rerouting of the parade (see below) would move the parade out of the view of CBS's cameras and thus make it significantly more difficult for them to cover the parade; CBS nevertheless plans on covering the parade to the same extent as in previous years.

CBS has often been criticized for its coverage of the parade. For many years (until 2002), CBS aired parades that had been taped a month before, along with the New York parade. Since then, the announcers that CBS has hired have been known to interview guests instead of paying attention to the parade. One of the main problems is that CBS broadcasts from the Hard Rock Cafe near Times Square. This location makes it difficult for CBS to interact with the parade. The Macy's parade is the only parade that CBS televises, since it dropped the Tournament of Roses Parade in 2006. The network also airs performances of Broadway musicals during breaks in the parade.

At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours,[25] then 90 minutes in 1962–1964, back to two hours in 1965, and by 1969, all three hours of it were being televised.[26] The broadcasts have been in color since 1960.[27] NBC tape delays the program so that it airs at the same time (9 a.m. to noon) in all four of the major time zones in the contiguous United States. CBS's unauthorized coverage airs live in most time zones (allowing viewers to see the parade as many as three hours before the official NBC coverage airs in their area).[24]

From 1962 to 1971, NBC's coverage was hosted by Matt Lauer, November 24th at 10:00 p.m.

CBS's coverage was originally part of an "All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade," a broadcast that included footage from multiple parades across the continent, including parades at Disneyland (later replaced by Opryland USA and after that Miami Beach), the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, and two month old taped footage of the Aloha Floral Parade in Honolulu. Beginning in 2004, however, CBS has focused exclusively on the Macy's parade, but avoids using the Macy's name due to the lack of an official license. To compensate for the fact that the Broadway and music performances can only appear on NBC, CBS adds their own pre-recorded performances (also including Broadway shows, although different from the ones that are part of the official parade) to fill out the special.

For the 1997 parade, MTV guest reporters, Beavis and Butt-head, with host Kurt Loder, provided their usual style of commentary on aspects of the parade, and of their take on Thanksgiving in general. The special, entitled Beavis and Butt-head Do Thanksgiving, includes a balloon of Beavis and Butt-head spectating from their couch. The balloon was not participating in the parade, but stationed on top of a building alongside the parade route.

In 2008, a Coca Cola CGI ad aired in the USA during Super Bowl XLII. The commercial's plot consisted of Underdog and fictional Stewie Griffin balloons chasing a Coke bottle-shaped balloon through New York City. The spot ended with a Charlie Brown balloon holding the Coke balloon. The advertisement won a Silver Lion Award at the annual Lions International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France that year, and the clip of the commercial with the Griffin balloon was featured in a Macy's commercial in October 2008 (along with clips of Miracle on 34th Street, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld and other media where the Macy's department store was mentioned). The commercial was even referenced in an episode of Family Guy (the show in which Stewie stars); Stewie is seen watching the parade only to see the balloon of himself in the parade.

Radio coverage is provided by WINS (1010). It is one of the few times throughout the year that station breaks away from their all news radio format.

Parade route

The Parade has always taken place in Manhattan, one of the Five Boroughs that make up New York City. Originally the parade started from 145th Street in Harlem and ended at Herald Square, a 6-mile route.

In the 1930s, the balloons were inflated in the area of 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue near St. John the Divine Cathedral. The parade proceeded South on Amsterdam Ave. to 106th Street and turned east. At Columbus Ave. the balloons had to be lowered to go under the 9th Avenue Elevated Subway tracks. Past the tracks, the parade proceeded through 106th street to Central Park West and turned South to terminate at Macy's Department Store.

A new route was established for the 2009 parade. From 77th Street and Central Park West, the route went south along Central Park to Columbus Circle, then east along Central Park South. The parade would then make a right turn at 7th Avenue and go south to Times Square. At 42nd Street the parade turned left and went east, then at 6th Avenue turned right again at Bryant Park. Heading south on 6th Avenue, the parade turned right at 34th Street (Herald Square) and proceeded west to the terminating point at 7th Avenue where the floats are taken down.[28][29] The 2009 route change eliminated Broadway completely, where the parade has traveled down for decades. The City of New York said that the new route would provide more space for the parade, and more viewing space for spectators. Another reason for implementing the route change is the city's plan to turn Broadway into a pedestrian-only zone at Times Square. Another new route has begun starting with the 2012 parade. This change is similar to the 2009 route, but now eliminates Times Square altogether and reroutes the parade down Sixth Avenue, a move that has been protested by the Times Square BID, Broadway theatre owners and other groups. The move is an effort to enforce some measure of exclusivity for NBC, the parade's official broadcaster, by moving the parade away from CBS's studios in Times Square.[30]

It is not advised to view the parade from Columbus Circle, as balloon teams race through it due to higher winds in this flat area.

New York City officials preview the parade route and try to eliminate as many potential obstacles as possible, including rotating overhead traffic signals out of the way.

Popular culture

In the Seinfeld episode, "The Mom and Pop Store", Elaine wins a spot on the parade route for her boss, Mr. Pitt, to hold up the Woody Woodpecker balloon.

The first Thanksgiving-themed episode of Friends centered on the accidental release of the (unused at the time) "Underdog" balloon.

Macy's Day Parade is a song by Green Day.

Macy's Holiday Parade

Since 2001, Macy's Studios has partnered with the Universal Orlando Resort (owned by NBC Universal) to bring balloons and floats from New York to the theme park in Universal Studios, Orlando: Theme Parks, Attractions, Accommodations]

Incidents and injuries

  • In 1927, a Felix The Cat balloon caught in some telephone wires and caught fire. The fire was put out, but Felix was removed from the parade.
  • In 1957, a Popeye the Sailor balloon's hat filled with water during heavy rain, which caused the balloon to go off-course and pour water on the crowd.
  • In 1982, the Bullwinkle balloon sprang a catastrophic nose leak just a few blocks shy of the finish line.[31]
  • In 1985, the Kermit the Frog balloon tore at the stomach. No one was injured.
  • In 1986, a Raggedy Ann balloon crashed into a lamppost and sent a lamp into the street. The same year, a Superman balloon had its hand torn off by a tree. Neither incident caused any injuries.[32]
  • In 1993, high winds pushed the Rex the Dinosaur balloon into a street light and caused his head to pop and the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon crashed into a lamppost at Columbus Circle and injured an off-duty police officer.[33]
  • In 1994, the Barney balloon tore its side on a lamppost, but no one was injured.[32]
  • In 1995, the Dudley the Dragon balloon that was leading the parade was speared and deflated on a lamppost and showered glass on the crowd below.[32]
  • In 1997, high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost.[34] The falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and leaving her in a coma for a month. Size rules were implemented the next year, eliminating larger balloons like the Cat in the Hat.[35] The same high winds also caused the New York City Police Department to stab and stomp down the Barney balloon over crowd concerns. They also stabbed a Pink Panther balloon for the same reason. Neither of the last two balloons actually caused any injuries.[32]
  • In 2000, Rocky was not seen on Bullwinkle, Rocky deflated during the inflation.
  • In 2005, the M&M's chocolate candies balloon caught on a streetlight in Times Square. Two sisters were struck by falling debris, suffering minor injuries. As a result, new safety rules were introduced.[36] Those rules came in handy for the 2006 parade, as balloons were lowered because of rain and high winds. The M&M's balloon was retired after 2006, and replaced by a float saluting Broadway theatre and musicals. Additionally, the Barney Balloon was nearly blown away, and his foot got ripped by a street light.
  • In 2008, a Keith Haring-inspired balloon hit the NBC Broadcast Booth.
  • In 2010, high winds pushed the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon into a lampost, but it was freed.
  • In 2011, the Kool Aid Man balloon was tipped over when it became deflated.

Helium shortage

In 2006, parade organizers used fewer balloons in response to a worldwide shortage of helium. Organizers had talked of not using any balloons, but compromised due to public demand.[37]


Further reading

  • William L. Bird, Jr. Holidays on Display. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History in Association with Princeton Architectural Press, 2007.

External links

  • Official 2012 website
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