Watching the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving has been an American tradition since 1924. The first-ever Macy’s Day Parade actually took place on Christmas. Employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other costumes. They marched with Central Park zoo animals and floats for the six miles from Herald Square to Harlem.
The parade was a marketing event, meant to draw attention to the Macy’s store in NYC, and that it did. More than 250,000 people attended that first parade and it now gets more than 50 million TV viewers nationwide!
Here’s some other things you may not have known about the parade:
- The first character balloon to make an appearance at the parade was Felix the Cat in 1927.
- In 1928, the parade’s giant helium-filled character balloons were released into the air during the parade’s climax. Each had its own return label so that those who recovered them could send them back to Macy’s for a prize. This came to an end when a pilot nearly crashed his plane attempting to capture a cat-shaped balloon.
- The first major balloon incident during the parade took place in 1957. It was raining heavily that day, and the brimmed hat Popeye the Sailor filled with water. Due to the added weight, Popeye veered off course and his hat dumped massive amounts of rainwater on unsuspecting parade-goers.
- There was a helium shortage in 1958 that forced the balloons to be filled with air and hung from cranes.
- From 1962 to 1971 Betti White hosted the parade.