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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade facts for kids

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The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1979.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a parade that happens every Thanksgiving. It is held in New York City. It is presented by chain store business Macy's. It started in 1924. The parade often includes many balloons, floats, celebrities, songs and more. It ends with the arrival of Santa Claus, which marks the start of the Christmas and holiday season. The hosts of The Today Show also host this event by introducing new acts in the parade.


Early history

In 1924, store employees marched to Macy's Herald Square, the flagship store on 34th Street, dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, Santa was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then crowned "King of the Kiddies". With an audience of over 250,000 people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event, despite media reports only barely covering the first parade.

The Macy's parade was enough of a success to push Ragamuffin Day, the typical children's Thanksgiving Day activity from 1870 into the 1920s, into obscurity. Ragamuffin Day featured children going around and performing a primitive version of trick-or-treating, a practice that by the 1920s had come to annoy most adults. The public backlash against such begging in the 1930s (when most Americans were struggling in the midst of the Great Depression) led to promotion of alternatives, including Macy's parade. While ragamuffin parades that competed with Macy's would continue into the 1930s, the competition from Macy's would overwhelm the practice, and the last ragamuffin parade in New York City would take place in 1956.

Anthony "Tony" Frederick Sarg loved to work with marionettes from an early age. After moving to London to start his own marionette business, Sarg moved to New York City to perform with his puppets on the street. Macy's heard about Sarg's talents and asked him to design a window display of a parade for the store.

Growth and changes

Through the 1930s, the parade continued to grow, with crowds of over one million people lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local radio stations in New York City from 1932 to 1941 and resumed in 1945, running through 1951.

The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 as a result of World War II because rubber and helium were needed for the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 and became known nationwide shortly afterwards, having been prominently featured in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. The event had its first broadcast on network television in 1948 (see § Television coverage). From 1984 to 2019, the balloons were made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, through its Raven Aerostar division.

Since 1985, the parade was traditionally led by the New York City Police Department Highway Patrol. In 2019, the cast of Sesame Street led the parade in honor of the show's 50th anniversary.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, the 2020 parade was downsized and closed to the public—being filmed as a broadcast-only event in the Herald Square area. There were 88% fewer participants, and social distancing was enforced. The event did not include college and high school marching bands (with the affected bands having been reinvited for 2021), nor any participant under 18 years of age. Balloons were tethered to a "specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles" rather than carried by handlers. In 2021, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned to its traditional in-person procession with 6,500 participants marching in the Parade.


Macys Balloon Inflation Training
Hamlet The Balloon School Pig being inflated by the Steven's Inflation Crew during training at Giants Stadium

The balloons were introduced in 1927, replacing live zoo animals. Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons were produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio from the 1920s through 1980. That year there was no procedure to deflate the balloons, and they were simply released. In 1928 five of the giant balloons were designed and filled with helium to rise above 2,000 feet (610 meters) and slowly deflate for whoever was lucky enough to capture the contestants in Macy's "balloon race[s]" and return them for a reward of $100 (equivalent to more than $1,600 with inflation as of 2021), this lasted until 1932.

The balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade have had several varieties. The oldest is the novelty balloon class, consisting of smaller balloons ranging widely in size and handled by between one and thirty people (the smallest balloons are shaped like human heads and fit on the heads of the handlers). The larger and more popular class is the character balloons, primarily consisting of licensed pop-culture characters; each of these (16 in 2019) is handled by exactly 90 people. The heaviest ballons in the history of the Parade include SpongeBob SquarePants with Gary (896 pounds) in 2019, and Goku from Dragon Ball (796 pounds) in 2018.

From 2005 to 2012, a third balloon class, the "Blue Sky Gallery", transformed the works of contemporary artists into full-size balloons; after a five-year hiatus, the Blue Sky Gallery returned in 2018, lasting until 2020.

Character balloons

Year Balloons
1928 Fish, Tiger, Hummingbird, Sky Elephant, Early Bird
1929 Turk with Sparkplug the Horse, Katzenjammers with the Captain, Sultan of Sulu, Turkey Gobbler, Ol' Man Dragon (longest balloon to ever appear in the Parade)
1930 Joe Jinks, Barney Google, Boob McNutt
1931 Tiamat the Tiger, Jerry the Pig, Two-Headed Giant, Tom Cat, Blue Hippo, Cats
1932 Felix the Cat, Willie Red Bird, Fritz the Dachshund, Terrible Turk
1933 Gulliver, The Colicky Kid
1934 Mickey Mouse, Eddie Cantor, Little Pig, The Big Bad Wolf
1935 Donald Duck, Turkey, Harpo Marx, Indian
1936 Father Knickerbocker, Dragon, Two-Headed Pirate
1937 Morton the Nantucket Sea Monster (redesigned version of Dragon Balloon), Officer SOS 13 (redesigned version of Father Knickerbocker Balloon), Pinocchio, Christmas Stocking, Daring Young Man on the Trapeze
1938 Uncle Sam, Ferdinand the Bull, Little Man-Big Man
1939 The Tin Man, Santa Claus
1940 Hippopotamus, Superman, Laffo the Clown
1941 Hugo the Football Player (redesigned version of Superman Balloon) and Football, Goldfish, Elephant
1945 Bobo the Hobo, The Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, Teddy Bear, Pumpkin, Ice Cream Cone
1946 Baseball Player (redesigned version of the Bobo the Hobo balloon), Panda Bear (redesigned version of Teddy Bear Balloon), Pilgrim, Candy Cane
1947 Pirate (redesigned version of the Pilgrim balloon), Comical Cop (redesigned version of Baseball Player Balloon), Gnome (redesigned version of the Ice Cream Cone Balloon)
1948 Fireman (redesigned version of Officer PAL Balloon), Monkey on the High Trapeze (redesigned version of the Man on the Young Man on the Flying Trapeze balloon), Crocodile
1949 Hobo Clown (redesigned version of Fireman Balloon), Dachshund, Howdy Doody
1950 Toy Soldier, Rainbow Trout
1951 Mighty Mouse
1952 Spaceman
1953 Dachshund (second version), Goldfish with Pinkish Fins (redesigned version of the Rainbow Trout Balloon)
1954 Gorgeous Gobbler
1956 Observer
1957 Popeye
1960 Happy Dragon
1961 Bullwinkle
1962 Flying Trapeze (redesigned version of the Observer Balloon), Donald Duck (second version)
1963 Dino the Dinosaur, Elsie the Cow
1964 Linus the Lionhearted
1965 Underdog
1966 Superman (second version), Smokey Bear
1968 Snoopy the Aviator
1969 Snoopy the Astronaut (second version, a tribute to Apollo 11)
1971 Smile (redesigned version of the Elsie the Cow balloon), Mickey Mouse (second version)
1975 Weeble
1977 Kermit the Frog
1980 Superman (third version)
1982 Olive Oyl, Woody Woodpecker
1983 Yogi Bear
1984 Garfield, Raggedy Ann
1985 Betty Boop
1986 Humpty Dumpty (redesigned version of Weeble Balloon), Swee'Pea (addition to Olive Oyl balloon), Baby Shamu
1987 Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, Skater Snoopy (third version), Snuggle Bear
1988 Big Bird, Quik Bunny, Pink Panther, Snoopy (fourth version) and Woodstock
1989 Bugs Bunny
1990 Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bart Simpson
1991 Babar the Elephant (redesigned version of the Smile balloon)
1992 Santa Goofy
1993 Beethoven (dog), Sonic the Hedgehog (first video game character balloon in Parade history), Rex, Izzy
1994 Barney, The Cat in the Hat
1995 Dudley the Dragon, Sky Dancer, Eben Bear (redesigned version of Snuggle Bear Balloon)
1996 Rocky and Bullwinkle (second version of Bullwinkle, first animated helium balloon in the parade's history), Peter Rabbit
1997 Arthur, Rugrats, Bumpé, Petula Pig
1998 Babe, Wild Thing, Dexter
1999 Millennium Snoopy (fifth version), Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Blue
2000 Bandleader Mickey Mouse (third version), Jeeves, Ronald McDonald (second version), Dragon Tales' Cassie
2001 Curious George, Pikachu, Big Bird (second version), Jimmy Neutron, Cheesasaurus Rex (first balloon with light-up feature)
2002 Charlie Brown and the Elusive Football, Little Bill, Mr. Monopoly, Kermit the Frog (second version)
2003 "Strike Up the Band" Barney (second version), Super Grover, Garfield (second version)
2004 Chicken Little, M&M's Red and Yellow Brighten the Holidays, SpongeBob SquarePants
2005 Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer, Mr. Potato Head, JoJo's Circus
2006 Snoopy as the Flying Ace (sixth version), Pikachu with Poké Ball (second version)
2007 Abby Cadabby, Super Cute Hello Kitty, Shrek
2008 Smurf, Buzz Lightyear, Horton the Elephant
2009 Spider-Man (second version), Ronald McDonald (third version), Sailor Mickey (fourth version), Pillsbury Doughboy
2010 Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Po from Kung Fu Panda
2011 Sonic the Hedgehog (second version), Julius
2012 Hello Kitty (second version), Papa Smurf, The Elf on the Shelf
2013 Snoopy and Woodstock (seventh version for Snoopy, second version for Woodstock), SpongeBob SquarePants (second version), How to Train Your Dragon's Toothless, The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Hot Air Balloon, Adventure Time with Finn & Jake
2014 Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington (second version, first time as a balloon), Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Skylanders' Eruptor, Pikachu (third version), Pillsbury Doughboy (second version, identical to first version)
2015 Ice Age's Scrat and his Acorn, Ronald McDonald (fourth version), Angry Birds' Red, Dino (second version)
2016 Charlie Brown (second version), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (second version), Trolls
2017 Olaf, Jett from Super Wings, Chase from PAW Patrol, Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (second version, first time as a Balloon; from the 2018 animated film)
2018 Goku from Dragon Ball
2019 Astronaut Snoopy (eighth version), Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants (third version) with Gary
2020 Red Titan from Ryan's World, The Boss Baby
2021 Ada Twist, Scientist, Funko Pop!-Inspired Grogu, Ronald McDonald (fifth version), Pikachu and Eevee (fourth version for Pikachu)
2022 Bluey, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (third version), Sinclair's Dino and Baby Dino (third version for Dino), Stuart the Minion
2023 Beagle Scout Snoopy (ninth version for Snoopy, third version for Woodstock), Monkey D. Luffy, Leo, Po from Kung Fu Panda (second version), Pillsbury Doughboy (third version)

Parade route

The Parade has always taken place in Manhattan. The parade originally started from 145th Street in Harlem and ended at Macy's flagship in Herald Square (at the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Avenue, and 34th Street), making a 6-mile (9.7 km) route.

In the 1930s, the balloons were inflated around 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The parade proceeded south on Amsterdam Avenue to 106th Street and turned east. At Columbus Avenue, the balloons had to be lowered to go under the Ninth Avenue El. Past the El tracks, the parade proceeded east on 106th Street to Central Park West and turned south to terminate at Macy's flagship.

A new route was established for the 2009 parade. From 77th Street and Central Park West, the route went south along Central Park to Columbus Circle, then east along Central Park South. The parade would then make a right turn at 7th Avenue and go south to Times Square. At 42nd Street, the parade turned left and went east, then at 6th Avenue turned right again at Bryant Park. Heading south on 6th Avenue, the parade turned right at 34th Street (at Herald Square) and proceeded west to the terminating point at 7th Avenue where the floats are taken down. The 2009 route change eliminated Broadway completely, where the parade has traveled down for decades. The City of New York said that the new route would provide more space for the parade, and more viewing space for spectators. Another reason for implementing the route change is the city's subsequent transformation of Broadway into a pedestrian-only zone at Times Square.

Another new route was introduced with the 2012 parade. This change is similar to the 2009 route, but eliminated Times Square altogether, instead going east from Columbus Circle along Central Park South, then south on Sixth Avenue to Herald Square.

Balloon teams race through Columbus Circle due to higher winds in this flat area, making it an unsuitable observation location. New York City officials preview the parade route and try to eliminate as many potential obstacles as possible, including rotating overhead traffic signals out of the way. Viewing is restricted from 38th Street through the end of the parade route, as this area is used for the NBC telecast.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade para niños

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