As far as holiday traditions go, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is as essential to the cozy November holiday as turkey and stuffed.
Although it had some interruptions and setbacks along the way, the show managed to run almost every year for nearly a century.
Let’s take a look back at five historical facts about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
The original store was located about 20 blocks south on Sixth Avenue near 14th Street. Macy’s has been in its current flagship location, at Broadway and 34th Street, since 1902. Continued expansion has made the location what Macy’s called the “largest store in the world,” an entire city block with more than 1 million square feet of commercial space.
To celebrate, employees staged a Christmas parade in 1924 with “floats, marching bands, zoo animals and 10,000 spectators,” according to a Macy’s history page. This also began at 145th Street. The parade ended with Santa Claus and the inauguration of the shop’s Christmas windows. Three years later, the Christmas Parade was renamed the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Macy’s did not invent this practice. Philadelphia has the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade: the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, now the 6ABC – Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Paradedebuted in 1920.
A Thanksgiving Tradition: Macy’s Parade Balloons
When the first broadcasts of the parade took place in 1932, you had to use your visual imagination, because it was on the radio.
The parade was first televised in 1946 in New York and then nationally on NBC the following year.
Second Mental thread, hot air balloon attractions debuted in 1927, inspired by a floating balloon. Even then, they were huge – one was a 60-foot dinosaur – and, in those days, they were dealing with more than just high winds and crazy weather: until 1938, an elevated train ran along Sixth Avenue.
Famous people have taken part in the parade since that 1927 release. Happy cat was there from the beginning, and Mickey Mouse joined in 1934, the same year a balloon based on famous entertainer Eddie Cantor. The “Peanuts” characters, especially Snoopy – who made his first appearance in 1968 – are regular visitors.
A tradition did not last long. Initially, the balloons were allowed to fly away, and those who found them received a gift certificate to Macy’s.
In photos: 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
For years, the parade route to Midtown wound along Broadway, the spine of Manhattan. But in 2009, the route was moved to Seventh Avenue due to new pedestrian plazas along Broadway. It was changed to Sixth Avenue in 2011. Since the parade is a tourist attraction, this didn’t go over well with some people.
For 2019, the route began at 77th Street and Central Park West, where it turned left onto 59th Street. He continued past Central Park until he reached Sixth Avenue. From there he headed to 34th Street, where he turned right and ended up at the flagship store.
And due to the pandemic, 2020 saw a very limited TV-only location near the flagship store.
You can check out the 2.5 mile route for 2023 on the Macy’s website.
In 1957, a rainy day became even wetter for people near a Popeye balloon: the character’s hat filled with water and drenched parade watchers. The same thing happened in 1962 with a Donald Duck hat.
Superman once lost an arm to tree branches.
But the worst it was probably 1997, a windy day in the Big Apple. During that parade, winds reached more than 40 miles per hour and the balloons were difficult to control. A balloon hit a lamppost and injured four people; one woman remained in a coma for a month. The Pink Panther threatened a woman who was holding her ropes.
“The balloon got caught on top of me and my daughter,” he told the New York Times. “We thought she was going to suffocate us.”