The history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade


The History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

It’s that time of year again, Christmas floats travel down Sixth Avenue and Santa makes a special appearance to signify the official start of the Christmas season. But what is the history of the parade?

Macy’s held its first Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924. That year it was called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, and it followed a route from 145th Street and Convent Avenue to the Macy’s store at 34th Street and Broadway. Three floats pulled by horses, four bands, and zoo animals from the Central Park Zoo.

The parade became a hit in the 20’s so they decided to do it for many years to follow. It was staged by Macy’s employees, many of whom emigrated to America from Europe and wanted to stage a celebration similar to the ones in their home countries.

In 1927, the giant balloons that are now the signature element of the parade made their first appearance with the help of helium. The balloons had to replace the zoo animals which were frightening to some children, and the first balloons included cartoon characters like Felix the Cat.

 In 1931, pilot Col. Clarence E. Chamberlain snagged a balloon with his airplane’s wing, leading to a ban on retrieval by airplanes the following year. But after the 1932 parade, another pilot attempted to capture a balloon and nearly crashed, leading Macy’s to stop releasing the balloons at the parade’s end due to a fear of public safety.

In 1934, celebrities became an important element of the parade, with singer-actor Eddie Cantor joining the event that year. The Mickey Mouse helium balloon was also introduced that year.

The parade was canceled a few times once from 1942-1944 due to a shortage of helium and rubber making because of World War II and then once again in 2020 due to the covid outbreak and skyrocketing cases.

The 2022 parade featured 6 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 40 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 700 clowns, 12 marching bands and 10 performance groups, and a host of musical stars as well as Santa Claus.

Every year, the Macy’s team behind the parade works to outdo the previous year’s parade. So we can’t wait to see what next year will behold.