11/22/2011 8:25 PM
Every year people look forward to the floats, balloons and performances, but how many of us really know how the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade got its start? Here’s the inside scoop on the 85-year history of the biggest parade of the season!
Back in 1924, the parade originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade was started by Macy’s employees. It didn’t feature those gigantic balloons and floats that we are so used to seeing each year though. It highlighted the animals from the Central Park Zoo. The event was such a success that Macy’s announced it would be an annual tradition!
Big balloons made their first appearances in 1927, but there were some kinks that needed to be working out. All the helium-filled characters were released into the Manhattan sky during the grand finale, but started to pop! Talk about going out with a bang! The next year brought some valve improvements that allowed the balloons to float for several days before popping. They also had labels on them telling the lucky finders to bring the remains into Macy’s for a reward!
In 1934, the most famous mouse in history made his debut on the parade route! Walt Disney collaborated for the first time with Macy’s, developing a giant Mickey Mouse balloon.
The 1940s brought the only halt in parade history. From 1940 to 1942, World War II demanded rubber and helium from the government, so Macy’s donated 650 pounds of scrap rubber to the war efforts. Fear not, the parade picked up right where it left off as soon as the war was over! For the first time, the parade was televised locally in 1946 and nationally in 1947. A record-breaking 2 million people tuned in to watch the big event! This was also the time when the parade route we use today was developed. It starts at 77th Street and Central Park West and winds through Manhattan all the way to Herald Square.
Popeye startled several spectators in 1957 when the cap of his balloon filled with rainwater and came sputtering down on bystanders. Whoops!
It’s hard to believe we went so many years without them, but floats didn’t make their grand entrance until 1969. Today, the artists at the Macy’s Parade Studio still design the decorative highlights of the parade. They measure up to 40-feet tall, but need to be able to fold down in order to make their journey through the Lincoln Tunnel to the beginning of the route. Crews work through the night to ready the floats for their 9 a.m. debut on Thanksgiving Day!
In 1996, more than the parade became a crowd-drawing event. Spectators gathered for an up-close look at the inflation of the giant balloons the day before the parade. This year, viewing is permitted between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST.
More than 3 million people line the streets of Manhattan for this 85-year-old parade and another 50 million tune in on TV. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become the kick-off to our holiday season, and all these years later still holds a special place in the hearts of people nationwide!
Photo Source: Macy's