11 Things You Didn't Know About The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Brush up on your holiday trivia before you tune in to the 93rd Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The holiday season officially kicks off when the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade begins its march down to the flagship department store in Herald Square in New York City. This year will be the 93rd year of the iconic parade, and we've rounded up the most interesting facts from its long history. This Thanksgiving, share these trivia facts with your friends and family as you snuggle up with a steaming mug of freshly-brewed coffee or cocoa to watch the parade on Thanksgiving morning. From humble beginnings in 1924 to the massive multi-million dollar production we know and love today, here are 11 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tidbits you might not know.
It was first called The Macy’s Christmas Parade
Although the parade happens on Turkey Day, it was originally advertised as the Macy’s Christmas Parade. And while it was renamed in 1925, each Thanksgiving Day parade concludes with Santa flying into town on his sleigh with Rudolph and pals.
Each balloon or float has at least 90 handlers on the ground holding its strings
There are about 2,000 handlers in the entire parade, all decked out in iconic Macy’s parade jackets. With so many people on the ground, Macy’s goes to great lengths to keep everyone and everything as safe as possible; weather and wind conditions are watched carefully the day of the parade. This Thanksgiving, wind is in the forecast, so the balloons are going to be a parade time—decision.
It’s the most expensive parade in the country
The parade costs somewhere between $12 and $14 million dollars each year, making it the most expensive parade in the country. The balloons themselves carry $50,000 worth of helium—each! And since the natural supply of helium is dwindling, we're not sure how long the parade will be able to keep up.
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama will have a float this year
You may have seen her iconic pop art on Instagram, and now you’ll see her on television during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! The 90-year-old art icon will debut “My Eternal Soul” on Thursday morning.
There was no parade from 1942 to 1944
During World War II Americans put forth a concerted effort to conserve rubber and helium. The parade was considered a frivolous event that needed to be paused until the war had finished. In 1947, the parade became a nationally known event after the smash hit Miracle on 34th Street debuted in movie houses and theaters across America.
Family and friends of Macy’s employees get to sit in front of the store
These coveted seats are priceless; you have to be personally given a spot by a friend or family member with access. Of course, Macy’s employees themselves have the option of marching in the parade.
There are new balloons every year
Make new friends but keep the old—that’s the mentality of Macy’s when it comes to their signature floats. There are one or two added or improvised characters every year. This year, watch for Smokey the Bear: He hasn’t been featured in the parade since 1993, but is returning for his 75th anniversary.
You can be a “Balloon Pilot” but it requires some extreme skills
Macy’s offers handler training three times a year. One of the tasks for making it through the program successfully is being able to walk the length of the parade...backwards. If you think you’ve got what it takes, you’ll need to hit up a pal who works for Macy’s and ask them to sponsor you. Thousands of people apply each year, and there are only 1,500 spots for non-Macy’s employees. If you’re selected, you’ll have to learn how to deflate these massive floats—in 15 minutes or less!
The balloons used to be released into the sky after the parade’s finale
Before parade organizers knew about the environmental impact of balloons, the oversized shapes were released into the atmosphere at the end of the parade. Luckily, that hasn’t been part of the grandstanding since the early 1930s.
The night before Thanksgiving is practically a New York City holiday
If you’re due in the kitchen on Thursday morning, tourists and locals can head up to the Upper West Side Wednesday night to watch float handlers get their balloons ready for flight. Tens of thousands of people descend on the neighborhood every year for this jolly pre-Thanksgiving event.
Only 12 marching bands are accepted to the parade
Top high school and college bands are invited to audition to march along the parade route several months before anyone even starts thinking about cranberry sauce. It’s an honor to be part of the big day, but only 12 bands are actually accepted. Most of the young performers won’t be able to spend the holidays with their families, so the kids traditionally spend it together after the parade ends.