Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A History and Preview

Grace Bromage ‘23

Features Editor

On Nov. 28, people will line the streets to watch as floats, marching bands, musical performances, and balloon characters march down the New York City streets as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Over the decades, the parade has changed and evolved to become what it is today. The first Macy’s Parade took place in 1924. Unlike today, balloons did not line the New York City skyline. Instead, the parade included three floats, four bands, and a variety of animals from the Central Park Zoo. It was not actually called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Instead it was the “Macy’s Christmas Day Parade.” That changed in 1927, when the animals, which had apparently been scaring children, were changed to the iconic helium character balloons. In the initial years, the balloons were let go at the end of the parade and whoever could find the balloon and grab a tag that was attached to it would receive a gift certificate from Macy’s. While the parade has typically gone on without fail, it was cancelled in the years of 1942, 1943, and 1944 due to World War II. When it returned in 1945, two million people came to see it. In 1947, the parade made an appearance in the Christmas film, “A Miracle on 34th Street.” In 1948, it again hit the screens, this time in its first national televised broadcast on NBC. In 1963, Kennedy’s assassination took place just days before the parade, putting into question if the parade should be cancelled to honor the deceased president. However, the Kennedy family called Macy’s and requested it go on. In the late 1970s, new parade director Jean McFaddin included Broadway performances as part of the parade for the first time, a tradition that continues to this day. Near the end of the 20th century, the balloon count doubled from nine to eighteen. In the 90s, popular cartoon characters also took to the sky: Bart Simpson, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This year, new balloons will include a “Green Eggs and Ham” themed balloon from Netflix, Snoopy dressed in astronaut attire in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, a balloon designed by contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama called Love Flies Up To The Sky, SpongeBob accompanied by his pet snail Gary, and a balloon of Smokey the Bear for the first time since 1993. New floats include a float inspired by “Blue’s Clues and You,” Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel, and Brick Changer by Lego, among several others. Billy Porter, the Black Eyed Peas, Celine Dion, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, NCT 127, and Chris Young will all be performing. There will also be an appearance by former astronauts Dr. Janet L. Kavandi and Kay Hire. The Broadway musicals which will be performing are “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” “Hadestown,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations.” There will be eleven marching bands and eight performance groups as well.

Despite the changes that have taken place over the years, one thing will remain the same—the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will end with a guest appearance from Santa Claus to usher in the holiday season.To learn more, you can go online to https://www.macys.com/social/parade/

Photo courtesy of Parade.com

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