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101 Fun Facts about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

101 Fun Facts about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Since 1924, The Macy’s Day Parade has continued to grow to be one of the most watched and celebrated parades in the world.  Whether you watch the parade with your family on TV or you fight for a spot along Central Park to see your favorite characters float by, these fun facts about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will make your next parade experience even more enjoyable.

1 Did you know that Macy’s was originally a Christmas Parade?  In 1924 employees of Macy’s organized a parade featuring floats, costumes, bands, and animals from the Zoo.  Santa Claus concluded the parade, ultimately unveiling the store’s Christmas Windows.  In 1927, the parade was renamed Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2) The Parade was not televised until 1946.  Before that, the first broadcasts were only on radio.

3) By 1933, more than one million people were attending this popular parade in NYC.

4) Over 250,000 people attended the first Macy’s Day Parade in NYC.

Felix the Cat

5) Felix the Cat debuted in 1927 as the first giant balloon to ever take part in the Macy’s Day parade.  In 1928, Felix was inflated with helium, and without a plan to deflate this massive balloon, parade organizers simply let Felix fly off into the sky.

6) In the early years, balloons were often released after the parade.  They contained a return address on them and whoever found the balloon could return the balloon for a prize from Macy’s.

7) Disney got involved in the Macy’s Day Parade in 1934 and introduced the Mickey Mouse balloon.

8) The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was temporarily suspended from 1942-1944 for World War II.  In an effort to help America’s cause, the rubber used to make the Macy’s Day Parade floats were donated to the American Military.

9) More than two million people attended the 1945 Macy’s Day Parade and it continues to grow every year.

10) The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade New York was first broadcast on radio in 1932.

11) Macy’s Parade floats were pulled by horses until 1939.

12) First time balloons cost at least $190,000 which covers admission to the parade and the cost of balloon construction.  That figure could be even more nowadays.  After the initial year, companies can expect to pay about $90,000 to get a character into the lineup.

13) NBC continues to be the official broadcast station of the Macy’s Parade since 1939.

14) Six days after president John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went ahead as scheduled in hopes to raise the national spirit.

15) In 1971, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was forced to ground all giant balloons due to heavy winds and rain, making it the first Thanksgiving Parade without balloons since 1926.

16) The giant balloon inflation is open to the public and takes place the evening before Thanksgiving.

17) Snoopy – the Peanuts character created by Charles Schultz, holds the distinction of having the most Thanksgiving Day NYC Parade floats, with eight different versions since 1968.

18) In 1958 a helium shortage almost grounded the Parade’s Balloon, however Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company along with the rigging specialists Traynor and Hansent Corporation came up with a creative solution to fill the balloons with air and dangle them from large mobile construction equipment.

19) According to reports and thanks to the parade, Macy’s is the second largest consumer of Helium in the world.  Only the US Government consumes more with NASA and DOD leading the charge.

20) Floats may be designed to be up to 40 feet tall and 28 feet wide but they fold down into a 12 foot by 8 foot box to make the journey into the city through the Lincoln tunnel.

21) Each year, It takes the parade studio team 50,000+ hours of labor to make sure every detail is perfect.

22) Over 300 pounds of glitter are sprinkled on costumes, floats and more.

23) The Parade Studio Team designed and maintained over 4,200 costumes for Parade participants.

24) Macy’s Parade Studio is located inside a 72,000 square foot warehouse in Moonachie, New Jersery.

25) More than 30 skilled artists work year round to prep for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

26) In recent years, some 50 million+ viewers have tuned in to the NBC broadcast, making it one of the country’s most watched televised events.

27) The “Believe Stars” balloons are 25 feet tall or as high as a two story building.  They are also 24 feet wide.  That is as wide as 5 taxi cabs.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Big Red Shoe

28) Lifetime celebrated it’s first parade appearance in 2020 with a parade float.  The float’s “town square” was covered in enough snow to make approximately 9,000 snowballs.

29) The Big Red Shoe Car is Ronald McDonald’s one of a kind Thanksgiving morning vehicles.  The Big Red Shoe Car is equal to a men’s size 266 shoe.

30) Coach was the first luxury brand to have a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

31) The Rocking Flamingo Float is five times the size of a real flamingo.

32) The Rocking Horse is the oldest float still in use for the Parade.  It was handmade by the legendary Manny Bass, a Parade designer for over 40 years.

33) Santa’s Sleigh is the largest float in the Parade at 60 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 3.5 stories tall.  The one and only Santa rides his sleigh through the streets of New York City as he makes his way to Macy’s Herald Square.

34) Tom Turkey is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lead float and is the longest running title float in the Parade.

35) Each large balloon needs about 90 minutes to two hours to be inflated

36) Balloons take about 15 minutes to deflate after the parade.

37) The person in charge of each balloon is called a Balloon Pilot.  Their job is to walk in front of the balloon and direct the rest of the handlers on how to navigate the route.

38) To become a Balloon Pilot, it is said the candidate for the job just be able to walk the entire 2.5 mile route backward without stumbling.

39) Want to become a Balloon Pilot?  Macy’s offers Balloon Pilot training three times a year to prepare for the big day.

40) Up to 90 people are needed to anchor and navigate each balloon.  They do so by grasping onto long ropes affixed to the bottom and sides of the balloon.  

41) The ropes, which the handlers grasp onto to safely navigate the balloon through the parade route are called “bones” and they require a specific way of handling so they remain taut throughout the parade.

42) When the parade was cancelled for World War II the amount of rubber from the deflated balloons that was donated to the US Government for use in the war effort was 650 pounds.

43) In 1932, an aviation student spotted a tom-cat balloon floating at 5,000 feet.  Instead of avoiding the balloon, the student rammed the plane into the cat’s neck getting it caught on the wing and sending the plane towards land.  The instructor was able to take control of the plane saving them both.  All release of the balloons post parade ceased at that point.

44) Parade spectators got Drenched unexpectedly in 1957 (Popeye balloon) and 1962 (Donald Duck Balloon) when their hats filled with water.

45) The Superman balloon once lost his arm to a tree branch.

46) More than 8,000 participants are involved in today’s parade.

47) 4,000 volunteers take time each Thanksgiving to help put on this parade.

48) The original parade was six miles long.  Today, the Parade route is 2.65 miles long.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 21: A not-too-ferocious dragon caught fancy of crowd at 1931 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

49) Only 3 balloons were featured in 1927, when balloons made their debut.  Felix the Cat, a dragon, and a toy soldier.  

50) There have been 4 different Mickey Balloons.

51) $25 – $100 was the reward for capturing and returning the balloons that were released in the early years.

52) Floats last for about eight years, before they’re retired.

53) The floats are filed with a precise mixture of helium and air.  On average, balloons are filled with 12,000 cubic feet of helium. 

54) Most of the performers have non-functioning mics and are lip-syncing on the moving floats.

55) Although NBC is the official broadcaster, CBS is known to show the footage of the parade as well.  It is reported that the CBS footage is unauthorized and that parade organizers have been known to reroute the parade to avoid CBS cameras.

56) The balloons used to be made of rubber but now they’re made of polyurethane fabric.

57) Santa Claus has closed the Parade every year, except in 1933.

58) Although being one of the oldest Parades, Macy’s didn’t host the first Thanksgiving Day Parade.  That distinction goes to Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia which debuted in 1920.  

59) Did you know that Balloon Handlers must be in good health and weigh at least 120 pounds.?

60) Due to the amount of Helium that is required to fill the balloons, it can get pretty expensive.  It’s said that in 2019, it was costing approximately $500,000 to fill the balloons.

61) The parade scenes used in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” were actually filmed live during the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

62) Superman balloon debuted in 1939, however it wasn’t until his third appearance in 1980, that he became the tallest balloon to ever appear in the parade, towering 80 feet tall. (not counting a few other balloons who appeared a little taller due to their accessories, a la Olive Oyl).

63) Cold temperatures have never cancelled the parade.  In 2018, the temperature on Thanksgiving morning was 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

64) In 1931, the Felix the Cat balloon burst into flames after getting caught in some telephone lines.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade65) In 2005, the M&M’s balloon hit a lamppost near Times Square, causing a light to fall and hit two women in the crowd.

66) Deflating the balloons is much easier than the inflation process.  Volunteers simply open zippers on the sides of the balloons and then lie on the balloon to squeeze any extra helium out.

67) Companies can pay over 2.5 million dollars to purchase a float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

68) When storing the balloons, the characters are rolled from front to back.

69) The only year that Santa didn’t ride his sleigh in the final float was in 1933, when he instead led the parade as the first float.

70) Almost 3,000 marching band members from across the U.S. will entertain as they march along the parade route.

71) Broadway Musicals started performing in the 1970s to add more entertainment to the parade. 

72) Two years following the inaugural parade, the parade was protested by Allied Patriotic Societies, who called for its cancellation on the grounds that it would prevent churchgoers from participating in Thanksgiving Day worship.  The parade was never forced to close arguing that there would be ample time to attend church after the parade. 

73) In 1934, when Mickey Mouse made his first appearance in the parade, he only measured 40 xy 23 feet. It still took 25 handlers to steer the balloon along the route.

74) The show must go on.  Today, balloons are divided into several individual segments so that the show can go on, even if one segment tears, deflates, or has a malfunction along the parade route.

75) The balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1933 had sound effects.  The dachshund barked, the pig oinked and the baby balloon cried.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


76) The Rockettes are an iconic part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but they didn’t make their debut in the lineup until 1958.

77) Spectators can see the balloons up close and personal at the balloon inflation celebration the night before the parade.  Seeing these balloons up close and personal is unreal.

78) Recently over 240 gallons of paint were used to decorate the floats.

79) Over 200 pounds of confetti fill the sky creating a festive atmosphere on Thanksgiving Day morning.

80) When Felix the Cat debuted in 1927 as the first balloon, he was filled with air and not helium.  He was held up on stilts as he “flew” through the city.  To commemorate the parade’s 90th year, Felix made his return and was once again only filled with air and carried on stilts.

81) Macy’s will not disclose how much the parade costs each year saying “It’s a gift to the city, and as with any gift, you don’t leave the price tag on.”

82) The parade is free to watch along the parade route.  There are VIP seatings, parties, viewing options if you are interested in not fighting for a spot on the street or braving the cold and other unpredictable November weather patterns.

83) The parade takes about three hours to complete from the first marcher crossing the start line until the last marcher reaches Harold Square.

84) Aside from the guest performers, all people marching in the Macy’s Parade are Macy’s employees and their friends and family (or otherwise affiliated with the store).  This has been true since the first parade.

85) The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has always boasted some of the most popular stars of film, television, music and sports who each year ride on top of the parade’s moving stages and perform for Spectators.  You never know who will be announced year after year.

86) Sesame Street cast and the Muppets have ridden in the parade for more than 30 years.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sponge Bob Square Pants

87) SpongeBob SquarePants is the Thanksgiving Day Parade’s first-ever square-shaped balloon.  It takes more than 600 internal tie-lines to give SpongeBob his distinctive look.

88) The Boss Baby balloon is carrying a briefcase so large that it can hold 540,000 crayons.

89) In 2020, due to the pandemic, a team of manned vehicles took the place of the usual 80-100 Balloon handlers.

90) Red Titan, the alter-ego of Ryan from Ryan’s World, is the parade’s first-ever YouTube inspired balloon.

91) If you created a “dough-sized” version of the Pillsbury Doughboy balloon, it would take more than four million Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.

92) Macy’s balloon designers are known as “Balloonatics” and they begin preparing 12-18 months before the parade.

93) Each balloon is constructed, prepped, and tested by Halloween and then stored in a warehouse at the Macy’ Parade Studio

94) In 2004, Macy’s introduced another new parade innovation called the “balloonicle,” a combination of a cold-air balloon and a self-propelled vehicle.

95) 2011 marked the birth of the trycalloon, a balloon that was part tricycle.

96) Over 200 individual giant balloons, novelty balloons, balloonicles, cold-air inflatables, and more have flown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

97) If you are enjoying the parade in person and opt not to enjoy a VIP viewing experience, then the best places to watch the parade tend to be Central Park West, Central Park South, and along 6th Avenue.

98) Arrive early and don’t underestimate the cold weather if you plan to experience the parade in person.  These two tips seem to be the common things amongst parade goers.

99) In 2019, Clown volunteers trained with pros from The Big Apple Circus and learned the fine art of clowning around as well as fun routines to entertain the spectators along the Parade route.

100) It reported that the Studio Space that Macy’s uses in New Jersey to prepare for the parade, was an old Tootsie Roll factory.

101) Floats can take up to nine months to complete and can cost $30,000 to $100,000 in construction costs.

We hope you enjoyed reading through these fun facts about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.   Have fun impressing your family and friends next year on Thanksgiving morning as you watch the parade unfold.

101 Fun Facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

If you would like to experience the Parade in person, then it’s time to grab the family and make plans to join Bucket List Events in New York City in November.  For more information about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Travel Packages and VIP parade viewing experiences, please click here.  New York City during the holiday season is magical and look forward to welcoming you to the Big Apple.





Wtop News: https://wtop.com/gallery/thanksgiving-news/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-fun-facts/

NYC Tourist: https://www.nyctourist.com/macys_history1.htm

Mental Floss: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/71548/16-fun-facts-about-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade

Macys: https://www.macys.com/social/parade/

Taste of Home: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/12-incredible-facts-about-the-macys-day-parade/

Scout Life: https://headsup.scoutlife.org/read-these-10-thanksgiving-parade-fun-facts/

The Daily Meal: https://www.thedailymeal.com/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-fun-facts/slide-25

Bob Villa: https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/25-things-you-never-knew-about-the-macy-s-thanksgiving-day-parade-52473

People: https://people.com/tv/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-balloons-history/

Macy’s Thanksgiving Fandom: https://macysthanksgiving.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Currently_Existing_Balloons#:~:text=Throughout%20its%2090%2Dplus%20year,%2Dair%20inflatables%2C%20and%20more

ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/US/photos/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-years-9150043/image-27003168

Parade: https://parade.com/955801/walterscott/macys-thanksgiving-parade-balloons/

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