Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, one of the world's largest parades, is presented by the U.S. based department store chain Macy's. The parade started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit (with both parades being four years younger than Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day Parade). The three-hour parade is held in Manhattan from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thanksgiving Day, and has been televised nationally on NBC since 1952. Employees at Macy's department stores have the option of marching in the parade.
|Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade|
Official 2014 88th Annual Parade poster
Savannah Guthrie (2012–present)
Hoda Kotb (2018–present)
Al Roker (1995–present)
Dave Garroway (1952–1958)
Bill Wendell (1959-1961)
Gene Rayburn (1959-1961?) Betty White (1962–1972)
Lorne Greene (1962–1972)
Joe Garagiola (1968-1972)
Martin Milner (1973)
Kent McCord (1973)
Ed McMahon (1974–1981)
David Hartman (1974)
Karen Grassle (1974)
Shari Lewis (1975-1976)
Helen Reddy (1975)
Peter Marshall (1975)
Della Reese (1976)
McLean Stevenson (1976)
Bryant Gumbel (1977–1980, 1982-1984)
Carol Lawrence (1977)
Arte Johnson (1977)
Regis Philbin (1981)
Sarah Purcell (1982-1983)
Pat Sajak (1984-1986)
Stepfanie Kramer (1984, 1986)
Bert Convy (1985)
Phylicia Ayers Allen (1985)
Willard Scott (1987–1997)
Mary Hart (1987)
Sandy Duncan (1988)
Deborah Norville (1989–1990)
Katie Couric (1991–2005)
Matt Lauer (1998–2017)
Meredith Vieira (2006–2010)
Ann Curry (2011)
|Starring||Parade Executive Producer:|
Jean McFaddin (1977–2000)
Robin Hall (2001–2010)
Amy Kule (2010–2016)
Jeff Gennette (2017-Present)
Brad Lachman Productions
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||92 (as of November 22, 2018)|
|Production location(s)||Central Park to Macy's Herald Square,|
New York City, New York
|Camera setup||Videotape; multi-camera|
|Running time||3 hours|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV),|
|Original release||November 24, 1924 –|
November 22, 1951 (radio)
November 25, 1948 –present (television)
|Related shows||Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks|
My Macy's Holiday Parade
Lighting of the Macy's Great Tree
Christmas in Rockefeller Center
In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started in Newark, New Jersey by Louis Bamberger at the Bamberger's store was transferred to New York City by Macy's. In New York, the employees marched to Macy's 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, as has been the case with every parade since, 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.
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 (at a time when most Americans were themselves 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. Sarg's large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927. A popular belief was that a balloon version Felix the Cat balloon was the first character balloon in the parade back in 1927. Macy's also claimed that, but Felix actually made his first appearance in 1931.
At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky, where they unexpectedly burst. The following year, they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's.
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, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became known nationwide after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948 (see below). Since 1984, the balloons have been made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, through its Raven Aerostar division.
Other American cities also have parades held on Thanksgiving, none of which are run by Macy's. The nation's oldest Thanksgiving parade (the Gimbels parade, which has had many sponsors over the years, and is now known as the 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade) was first held in Philadelphia in 1920. Other cities with parades on the holiday include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, Illinois and parades in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Fountain Hills, Arizona. There is also a second Thanksgiving balloon parade within the New York metropolitan area, the UBS balloon parade in Stamford, Connecticut, located 30 miles (48 km) away; that parade is held the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so as not to compete with the parade in New York City. It usually does not duplicate any balloon characters. The Celebrate the Season Parade, held the last Saturday in November in Pittsburgh, was sponsored by Macy's from 2006 to 2013 after Macy's bought the Kaufmann's store chain that had sponsored that parade prior to 2006.
The classic "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" logo (seen below) was, with one exception, last used in 2005. For 2006, a special variant of the logo was used. Every year since then (commensurate with Macy's rebranding of the former May stores nationwide to Macy's), a new logo has been used for each parade. The logos however are seen rarely, if at all, on television as NBC has used its own logo with the word "Macy's" in a script typeface and "Thanksgiving Day Parade" in a bold font. The logos are assumed to be for use by Macy's only, such as on the Grandstand tickets and the ID badges worn by parade staff. The Jackets worn by parade staff still bear the original classic parade logo, this being the only place where that logo can be found.
New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon-related injuries. One measure taken was the installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. In addition, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions. New York City law prohibits Macy's from flying the balloons if sustained winds exceed 20 knots (23 mph) or wind gusts exceed 30 knots (35 mph); New York's tall buildings and regular grid plan can amplify wind velocity on city streets.
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Since 2013, the balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade have come in two varieties. The first (and older of the two) is the novelty balloon class, consisting of smaller balloons; the novelty balloons range widely in size and are handled by between one and thirty people (the smallest novelty balloons are shaped like human heads and fit on the actual heads of the handlers). The second and more widely known is the full-size balloon class, primarily consisting of licensed pop-culture characters; each of these is handled by exactly 90 people. From 2005 to 2012, a third balloon class, the "Blue Sky Gallery", transformed the works of contemporary artists into full-size balloons.
The following is a list of balloons that have, over the years, been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, sorted by their first year in the lineup.
|1931||Felix the Cat|
|1932||Felix the Cat (2nd Version)|
|1934||Mickey Mouse, Eddie Cantor (the only full-size balloon to be based on a living person)|
|1937||Morton The Nantucket Sea Monster (largest balloon to appear in parade) Christmas Stocking|
|1939||The Tin Man, Pinocchio, Santa Claus|
|1941||The Football Player (Redesigned version of Superman Balloon)|
|1945||Bobo the Hobo (Clown), Acrobat, Teddy Bear, Pumpkin, Ice Cream Cone|
|1946||The Baseball Player (Redesigned version of Bobo the Hobo), Panda Bear (Redesigned version of Teddy Bear balloon), Pilgrim Mother|
|1947||Pirate, The Police officer (Redesigned version of The Baseball Player), The Goofy Gnome (Redesigned version of Ice Cream Cone balloon)|
|1948||The Fireman (Redesigned version of The Police Officer)|
|1951||Lucky Pup, Mighty Mouse, Flying fish|
|1956||Observer hot Air balloon|
|1961||Bullwinkle J. Moose|
|1962||Donald Duck (2nd version)|
|1963||Dino, Elsie the Cow|
|1964||Linus the Lionhearted|
|1966||Smokey Bear, Superman (2nd version)|
|1969||Astronaut Snoopy (2nd version, a tribute to Apollo 11)|
|1971||Mickey Mouse (2nd version), Smile (Happy Face, Redesigned version of The Elsie the Cow Balloon)|
|1977||Kermit the Frog|
|1980||Superman (3rd version, 2nd largest balloon to appear in parade)|
|1982||Olive Oyl, Woody Woodpecker|
|1984||Garfield, Raggedy Ann|
|1986||Humpty Dumpty (Redesigned version of Weeble balloon, and the 100th Balloon in the Parade's history), Olive Oyl with Swee'Pea (Alteration to existing Olive Oyl Balloon), Baby Shamu|
|1987||Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, Ice Skating Snoopy (3rd version), Snuggle Bear,|
|1988||Big Bird, Quik Bunny, Pink Panther, Winter Snoopy (4th version) and Woodstock|
|1990||Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bart Simpson|
|1991||Babar the Elephant (Redesigned version of The Smile Balloon)|
|1993||Beethoven (dog), Sonic the Hedgehog (first video game character in parade history), Rex, Izzy|
|1994||Barney the Dinosaur, The Cat in the Hat|
|1995||Dudley the Dragon, SkyDancer, Eben Bear (Redesigned version of Snuggle Bear Balloon)|
|1996||Rocky and Bullwinkle (2nd version for Bullwinkle, first animated helium balloon in the parade's history), Peter Rabbit|
|1997||Arthur, Rugrats, Bumpe the Cow, Ms. Petula Pig|
|1998||Babe the Pig, Wild Thing, Dexter|
|1999||Millennium Snoopy (5th version), Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Blue|
|2000||Bandleader Mickey Mouse (3rd version), Beret Tommy Pickles (minor alteration to existing Rugrats Balloon), Jeeves, Ronald McDonald (2nd version), Dragon Tales' Cassie|
|2001||Curious George, Pikachu, 75th Parade Snoopy (Alteration to existing Millennium Snoopy Balloon), Big Bird (2nd version), Jimmy Neutron, Cheesasaurus Rex, 60th Anniversary Tuxedo Honey Nut Cheerios Bee (Alteration to existing Honey Nut Cheerios Bee Balloon)|
|2002||Charlie Brown and the Elusive Football, Little Bill (First African-American character to appear in the parade), Mr. Monopoly, Kermit the Frog (2nd version)|
|2003||Strike up the Band Barney (2nd version), Super Grover, Garfield (2nd version)|
|2004||Chicken Little, M&M's Red and Yellow Brighten the Holidays, Jeeves with a new suit (alteration of existing Jeeves Balloon), SpongeBob SquarePants|
|2005||Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer (First Latino character to appear in parade), Healthy Mr. Potato Head, JoJo|
|2006||Snoopy as the Flying Ace (6th version), Pikachu with Poké Ball (2nd version, first balloon with light up features, In Pikachu's case, to light up his cheeks)|
|2007||Abby Cadabby, Supercute 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 the Sock Monkey|
|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 and Jake|
|2014||Thomas the Tank Engine; Paddington Bear (2nd Time, first time as a Balloon); Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Skylanders' Eruptor, Pikachu (third version); Pillsbury Doughboy (Second Version, Identical to first version)|
|2015||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 from Frozen, Jett from Super Wings, PAW Patrol's Chase, The Grinch (2nd Version, first time as a Balloon; from the 2018 Illumination animated film)|
|2018||Goku from Dragon Ball|
|1931||Mama, Papa and Baby|
|1935||The Three Marx Brothers|
|1985||Lollipops, Ice Cream Cone, Circus Balls, Flower Balls, Macy's Red & Blue Star Balls, Macy's White Stars|
|1986||Macy's White Stars (Second Version, first full size version), Starfishes|
|1987||Ice Cream Cone (second version), Snowflake Stars, Macy's White Stars, Lollipops, Circus Balls, Flower Balls, Red & Blue Stars Balls|
|1988||ABC Bouncing Balls, Snowflakes Balls|
|1990||Red Text Macy's White Star|
|1991||Basketball, Baseball, Football, Poinsettias|
|1992||Novelty Pumpkins (Recreation of 1945 Pumpkin), The Pinheads|
|1994||Cloe the Holiday Clown|
|1996||Harold the Fireman (Re-Creation of 1948 "The Fireman" balloon), Flying Fish (Re-creation of 1951 "Flying Fish" balloon), Macy's Stars & Stripes Balls|
|2000||Elf Gnome (Recreation of 1940's Elf Gnome balloon, later named Charlie the Blue Elf Gnome)|
|2001||Toy Soldier (Recreation of 1950's Toy Soldier), Yellow 75th Parade Stars, Happy Hippo (Re-Creation of 40's Hippo Balloon)|
|2002||Uncle Sam (Recreation of 1930's Uncle Sam balloon), Yellow Parade Logo Stars, Sesquicentennial Hot-Air Balloon Replica, Macy's Blue Stars, Macy's Red Stars|
|2003||Gorgeous Gobbler (Recreation of the 1950's Turkey balloon), Novelty Pumpkins (Second Version), Freda The Dachshund (Recreation of 1950s Dachshund balloon)|
|2004||Alexander Mora's Turkey of World Peace (Winner of a 2004 Design a Balloon contest), Wiggle Worm (Second Version), Red Candy Cane, Kit and C.J. Elf Gnomes|
|2005||Cloe the Holiday Clown (2nd Version), Strawberry/Pistachio Ice Cream Cone (Third Version)|
|2006||80th Anniversary Hot Air Balloon, Macy's Yellow Stars, Chocolate/Strawberry Ice Cream Cone, Handprint Balls, Green Candy Cane|
|2007||Beach Ball Clusters, Planet Earth, Artie the Pirate (Recreation of 1940s Pirate balloon), Soccer Ball|
|2008||150 Years Golden TriStar, Green Believe Star|
|2009||Geometrics, All Star Basketball (second version), Big Man Santa, Red Believe Stars|
|2011||Harold the Police Officer (recreation of 1940's "The Police Officer" balloon), Gazor Elf (Winner of the Design an Elf contest that was held on the Macy's website)|
|2012||Novelty pumpkins (third version), Soccer Ball (Second version), Happy Dragon (Recreation of older Happy Dragon balloon)|
|2013||Happy Hippo (Second Version), Football (Second Version)|
|2015||Macy's Yellow Stars (Second Version), Red Believe Stars (Second Version)|
|2016||Trixie the Dog, Felix the Cat (Second Version, re-creation of Felix Balloon from the 1931 parade)|
|2017||Macy's Blue Stars (Second Version), Harold the Baseball Player (Re-creation of 1946 "The Baseball Player" Balloon), Macy's Gold Starflakes|
|2018||Americana Spheres (Second Version), Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles (4 separate balloons of Fleck, Bjorn, Jojo and Hugg), Nutcracker (From Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's), Sunny the Snowpal|
|2019||Ice Cream Cone|
Blue Sky Gallery
|2005||Humpty Dumpty||Tom Otterness|
|2008||Figure with Heart||Keith Haring|
|2010||Kaikai and Kiki||Takashi Murakami|
A falloon, a portmanteau of "float" and "balloon", is a float-based balloon. They were introduced in 1990.
|1986||The Chipmunk Adventure|
|1991||Humpty Dumpty, Giant Baseball and Glove|
|1993||Little Drummer Boy, Elf in a Box|
|1995||M&M's Chocolate Factory|
|1996||The Family Channel (Later Fox Family) Snow Family|
|1997||The Grinch, Jello|
|1998||M&M's Network, Heimlich from A Bug's Life, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer|
|1999||Pets.com sock puppet|
|2001||Green Dog with Doghouse (2nd Version), Percy the Penguin|
|2004||Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Beat (2nd Version of Little Drummer Boy)|
|2005||Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi|
|2008||The Smurfs Mushroom House, Bolt|
|2011||Universal Orlando Resort PB Polar Bear|
|2013||Gelt the Snowman (Universal Orlando Only)|
A balloonicle, a portmanteau of "balloon" and "vehicle", is a self-powered balloon vehicle. They were introduced in 2004.
|2004||Weebles' Tibbey, Tooey and Bumpus|
|2010||Kool-Aid Man, Holiday Ornament, Blue Holiday Ornament|
|2011||Sledding Aflac Duck|
|2014||Ice Skating Aflac Duck (2nd Version), Cloe the Holiday Clown (3rd Version)|
|2015||Tom Turkey (Universal Orlando Only)|
|2016||Mother Ginger from The Nutcracker ballet|
|2017||Aflac Duck (3rd Version)|
|2018||Go Bowling (2 Shoe cars, one Bowling Ball and 6 Pins), Sinclair Oil 3 Baby Dinos|
Performers and acts
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In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the Parade also features live music and other performances. College and high school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by established and up-and-coming singers and bands. The Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall are a classic performance as well (having performed annually since 1957 as the last pre-parade act to perform and their performance was followed by a commercial break), as are cheerleaders and dancers chosen by the National Cheerleaders Association from various high schools across the country. The parade always concludes with the arrival of Santa Claus to ring in the Christmas and holiday season.
On the NBC telecast from in front of the flagship Macy's store on Broadway and 34th Street, the marching bands perform live music. Most "live" performances by musicals and individual artists lip sync to the studio, soundtrack or cast recordings of their songs, due to the technical difficulties of attempting to sing into a wireless microphone while in a moving vehicle (performers typically perform on the floats themselves); the NBC-flagged microphones used by performers on floats are almost always non-functioning props. Although rare, recent parade broadcasts have featured at least one live performance with no use of recorded vocals.
Every year, cast members from a number of Broadway shows (usually shows that debuted that year) perform either in the parade, or immediately preceding the parade in front of Macy's and before The Rockettes' performance (since NBC broadcasts the parade's start, the performances are shown during the wait for the parade itself). The 2007 parade was notable as it took place during a strike by the I.A.T.S.E. (a stagehands' union), and as such, Legally Blonde, the one performing musical affected by the strike, performed in show logo shirts, with makeshift props and no sets. The other three shows that year performed in theaters that were not affected by the strike.
|1987||Albertville High School Marching Band, Albertville, Alabama; Bergenfield High School Marching Band, Bergenfield New Jersey; Danbury High School Marching Band, Danbury Connecticut; J. M. Tate High School Marching Band, Pensacola, Florida; Carlisle High School Marching Band, Carlisle Pennsylvania, "Big Green Machine"; East Carteret High School Marching Band, Beaufort North Carolina; All American High School McDonalds Band, (Band members met one week prior to Parade with 2 students from every state); Dalton High School Marching Catamount Band, Dalton Georgia; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Band, "Highty-Tighties" Regimental Band of Virginia Tech; Live Oak High School Marching Band, Morgan Hill California; Greenbrier High School Marching Band, Lewisburg West Virginia; Southport High School Marching Band, Indianapolis Indiana; George Rogers Clark High School Marching Band, Winchester, Kentucky|
|2013||Concord High School Marching Band, Elkhart, Indiana; Lakota West High School Marching Band, West Chester, Ohio; Macy's Great American Marching Band; James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes, Harrisonburg, Virginia; Marian Catholic High School Marching Band, Chicago Heights, Illinois; Mountain View High School Marching Band, Mesa, Arizona; New York City Police Department Marching Band, New York; Ooltewah High School Marching Band, Tennessee; Tarpon Springs High School Marching Band, Florida; Union High School Marching Band, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Quantico Marine Corps Band, Quantico, Virginia; University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, Amherst, Massachusetts|
|2014||American Fork High School Marching Band, Utah; Bahamas All Stars Marching Band, Nassau, Bahamas; Baldwinsville High School Marching Band, Baldwinsville, New York; Center Grove High School Marching Band, Greenwood, Indiana; Winston Churchill High School Marching Band, San Antonio, Texas; Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Marching Band, Lexington, Kentucky; Foothill High School Marching Band, Henderson, Nevada; Georgia State University Marching Band, Atlanta, Georgia; Macy's Great American Marching Band; Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps Anniversary Corps, Madison, Wisconsin; New York City Police Department Marching Band, New York; Western Carolina University Marching Band, Cullowhee, North Carolina|
|2015||Macy's Great American Marching Band; Stephen F. Austin State University Marching Band, Nacogdoches, Texas; Cavalier Marching Band (University of Virginia), Charlottesville, Virginia; New York City Police Department Marching Band, New York; Gulf Coast High School Marching Band, Naples, Florida; Walled Lake Central High School Viking Marching Band, Walled Lake, Michigan; Munford High School Marching Band, Munford, Tennessee; Nogales High School Noble Regiment Marching Band, La Puente, California; Lewis Cass High School Marching Band, Walton, Indiana; New York City Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes & Drums, New York; North Hardin High School Marching Band, Radcliff, Kentucky; West Chester University Marching Band, West Chester, Pennsylvania; Marching Illini (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), Champaign, Illinois|
|2016||Cary Senior High School marching band, Cary, North Carolina; Grain Valley High School Marching Eagles, Grain Valley, Missouri; Greendale High School Marching Band, Greendale, Wisconsin; Harrison High School marching band, Kennesaw, Georgia; Hawaii All State Marching Band; Hendrickson High School Hawk Band, Pflugerville, Texas; Newsome High School Marching Band, Lithia, Florida; Prospect High School Marching Knights, Mt. Prospect, Illinois; West Point Band, West Point, New York; West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band, Morgantown, West Virginia; Macy's Great American Marching Band; New York City Police Department Marching Band, New York|
|2017||Prairie View A & M University, Prairie View, Texas; Nation Ford H.S. Fort Mill, South Carolina; Trumbull High School, Trumbull, CT; West Harrison High School, Gulfport, MS; Spirit of America Cheer Marching Band; The U.S. Air Force Band and Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.; New York City Police Department; Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; Colony High School, Palmer, AK; Spirit of America Dance Stars; Rosemount High School, Rosemount, MN; Rockford High School, Rockford, MI; Davis High School, Kaysville, UT|
|2018||CNS H.S. Northstars marching band, Cicero, New York; Grants Pass H.S. marching band & color guard, Grants Pass, Oregon; Homewood Patriot Band, Homewood, Alabama; JMU Marching Royal Dukes, Harrisonburg, Virginia; Keller High School marching band, Keller, Texas; Lafayette H.S. Mighty Lion marching band, Lafayette, Louisiana; Macy's Great American Marching Band; New York City Police Department Marching Band, New York; Ohio State U. marching band, Columbus, Ohio; Park Vista High School marching band performers, Lake Worth, Florida; Riverside City College Marching Tigers, Riverside, California; Woodland High School Wildcat marching band, Cartersville, Georgia|
For the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in 2011, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade invited family members from Tuesday's Children, a family service organization that has made a long-term commitment to those directly impacted by the attacks and terrorism around the world, to cut the ribbon at the start of the parade with NBC's Al Roker and led the parade with Amy Kule, the Parade's executive producer.
More than 44 million people watch the parade on television on an annual basis. It was first televised locally in New York City in 1939 as an experimental broadcast on NBC's W2XBS (forerunner of today's WNBC). No television stations broadcast the parade in 1940 or 1941, but when the parade returned in 1945 after the wartime suspension, local broadcasts also resumed. The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948, the year that major, regular television network programming began. NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1952, though CBS (which has a studio in Times Square) also carries unauthorized coverage under the title The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS. Since the parade takes place in public, the parade committee can endorse an official broadcaster, but they cannot award exclusive rights as other events (such as sporting events, which take place inside restricted-access stadiums) have the authority to do. The rerouting of the parade that was implemented for the 2012 event (see below) moved the parade out of the view of CBS's cameras and thus made it significantly more difficult for the network to cover the parade (though the route now passes along the west side of the network's Black Rock headquarters building along Sixth Avenue, and the hosts are stationed on a temporary tower platform at the Sixth/W. 53rd St. corner of the building); CBS nevertheless continues to cover the parade to the same extent as in previous years.
Since 2003, the parade has been broadcast simultaneously in Spanish on the sister network of NBCUniversal (Telemundo) hosted by María Celeste Arrarás from 2003-2006. The parade won nine Emmy Awards for outstanding achievements in special event coverage since 1979.
At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, and was then reduced to 90 minutes in 1962, before reverting to a two-hour telecast in 1965; all three hours of the parade were televised by 1969. The event began to be broadcast in color in 1960. NBC airs the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live in the Eastern Time Zone as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as they use feeds from that time zone, but tape delays the telecast elsewhere in the continental U.S. and territories from the Central Time Zone westward to allow the program to air in the same 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. timeslot across its owned-and-operated and affiliated stations; since the morning program's expansion to three hours in 2000 and eventually to four hours, NBC's Today only airs for two hours Thanksgiving morning as a result, pre-empting the latter two talk-focused hours of the show for the day. NBC began airing a same-day afternoon rebroadcast of the parade in 2009 (replacing the annual broadcast of Miracle on 34th Street, which NBC had lost the broadcast television rights to that year). CBS's unauthorized coverage airs live in most time zones, allowing viewers to see the parade as many as two hours before the official NBC coverage airs in their area; CBS still broadcasts the parade on delay on the West Coast, immediately after the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game in even-numbered years when CBS carries it, or at 9 a.m. local time in odd-numbered years when they carry the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game.
From 1962 to 1972, NBC's coverage was hosted by Lorne Greene (who was then appearing on NBC's Bonanza) and Betty White. Ed McMahon hosted the parade in 1974, then hosted until 1981. Since 1982, NBC has appointed at least one of the hosts of Today to emcee the television broadcast, starting with Bryant Gumbel, who hosted the parade until 1984. From 1987 to 1997, NBC's coverage was hosted by longtime Today weather anchor Willard Scott. During that period, their co-hosts included Mary Hart, Sandy Duncan, and Today colleagues Deborah Norville and Katie Couric. In recent years, NBC's coverage has been hosted by Today anchors Matt Lauer (from 1998 to 2017), Meredith Vieira (from 2006 to 2010), Ann Curry (2011), Savannah Guthrie (since 2012) and Hoda Kotb (since 2018) as well as Today weather anchor Al Roker who usually joins the producers of the parade and special guests in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
From the early 1980s until circa 1994, the television broadcast was produced and directed by Dick Schneider; since circa 1994, it has been executive produced by Brad Lachman (who has otherwise been known for producing reality television series), produced by Bill Bracken and directed by veteran sitcom director Gary Halvorson. Announcements during the telecast were first provided by Don Pardo, followed by Lynda Lopez, the telecast's only female announcer, who served during the decade wherein Willard Scott was the parade's host; from circa 1994 to 2010, announcer duties were helmed by Joel Godard (who also served as the announcer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien for much of that period), and then were assumed by Today announcer Les Marshak with the 2011 telecast. The musical director for the television coverage is veteran composer/arranger Milton DeLugg.
CBS's coverage was originally part of the "All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade," a broadcast that included footage from multiple parades across North America, including parades at Detroit, Philadelphia and Disneyland (the latter was later replaced by Opryland USA in 1997 and after that Miami Beach), and taped footage of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade (taped usually the second or third weekend of November) and the Aloha Floral Parade in Honolulu (which usually took place in September). Beginning in 2004, however, CBS has focused exclusively on the Macy's parade, but avoids using the Macy's name due to the lack of an official license. To compensate for the fact that the Broadway and music performances can only appear on NBC, CBS adds their own pre-recorded performances (also including Broadway shows, although different from the ones that are part of the official parade and recorded off-site) to fill out the special.
For the 1997 parade, MTV guest reporters, Beavis and Butt-head, with host Kurt Loder, provided their usual style of commentary on aspects of the parade, and of their take on Thanksgiving in general. The special, titled Beavis and Butt-head Do Thanksgiving, included a balloon of Beavis and Butt-head spectating from their couch. The balloon was not participating in the parade, but stationed on top of a building alongside the parade route.
In the 1930s, the balloons were inflated in the area of 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue near St. John the Divine Cathedral. 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 through 106th Street to Central Park West and turned south to terminate at Macy's Department Store.
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 plan to turn 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.
It is not advised to view the parade from Columbus Circle, as balloon teams race through it due to higher winds in this flat area. 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.
Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's
Since 2001, Macy's Studios has partnered with the Universal Orlando Resort (owned by NBC parent NBCUniversal) to bring balloons and floats from New York City to the theme park in Florida every holiday season in an event known as the Macy's Holiday Parade. The parade is performed daily and includes the iconic Santa Claus float. Performers from the Orlando area are cast as various clowns, and the park used to invite guests to be "balloon handlers" for the parade.
In 2017, the Macy's Holiday Parade was renamed to Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's.
In 1993, strong gusts of wind pushed the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon into a lamppost at Columbus Circle. The lamppost damaged the balloon and the top of the post broke off while inside the balloon, dragging it down, injuring a child and an off-duty police officer in the process.
In 1997, very high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost. The falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and leaving her in a coma for a month. Balloon size regulations were implemented the next year, eliminating larger balloons such as the Cat in the Hat.
In 2005, the M&M's balloon collided with a streetlight in Times Square; parts of the light fell on two sisters, who suffered minor injuries. As a result, new safety rules were introduced. The M&M's balloon was retired after 2006.
In popular culture
- The 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, begins with the parade, as do most of its remakes. The film centers around the real Santa Claus being hired to work at Macy's after its own Santa impersonator gets drunk during the parade. NBC, in its telecasts of the parade, often showed the original 1947 film on Thanksgiving afternoon, following its coverage of the parade and the National Dog Show.
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Mom and Pop Store", Elaine wins a spot on the parade route for her boss, Mr. Pitt, to hold the Woody Woodpecker balloon.
- The first Thanksgiving-themed episode of Friends centered on the accidental release of the (unused at the time) "Underdog" balloon.
- "Macy's Day Parade" is a song by Green Day.
- In 2008, a Coca-Cola CGI ad aired in the United States during Super Bowl XLII. The commercial's plot centered around Underdog and fictional Stewie Griffin balloons chasing a Coke bottle-shaped balloon through New York City. The spot ended with a Charlie Brown balloon holding the Coke balloon. The advertisement won a Silver Lion Award at the annual Lions International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France that year, and the clip of the commercial with the Griffin balloon was featured in a Macy's commercial in October 2008 (along with clips from Miracle on 34th Street, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld and other media where the Macy's department store was mentioned). The commercial was also referenced in an episode of Family Guy. Stewie, who is one of the main characters in the show, is seen watching the parade only to see the balloon of himself in the parade.
- In the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, the new team of Ghostbusters fights a haunted balloon parade including several Macy's balloons from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
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