Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Lets Have a Parade!"

America’s favorite holiday tradition, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, will celebrate its 85th anniversary on Thursday, November 24, 2011 with new giant character helium balloons, new floats, and of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become the benchmark for pageantry and the official kick-off celebration to the holiday season.

Before the event kicks-off, the ribbon must be cut and the iconic words, “Let’s Have a Parade” must be shouted, as has been the tradition since the very first parade in 1924. This year, executive producer of the parade Amy Kule will be joined by kids from Tuesday’s Children, a family service organization dedicated to those impacted by the events of September 11th. The ribbon-cutting is meant to signify both a moment of remembrance and serve as an uplifting tribute the lives lost on that fateful day.

The 85th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature 15 giant character balloons; 44 novelty/ornament balloons, ballonicles and balloonheads; 27 floats; 1,600 cheerleaders, dancers and performance group members; 800 clowns; 11 marching bands; a host of celebrity performers, and the one-and-only Santa Claus.

Since its first national broadcast in 1948, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been the nation’s star attraction. One of the country’s most viewed events, millions of families tune-in from coast to coast to watch the telecast.

The parade will step off this year at 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will travel down to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South, before making a right turn to march down 7th Avenue to 42nd Street. The parade will then turn east towards 6th avenue where it will march down the Avenue of the Americas. At 34th Street, the parade will make its final turn west marching in front of the world’s largest department store, Macy’s Herald Square. The festivities will kick-off at 9:00 AM sharp!

A Brief Parade History

The parade in 1924 was called "Macy's Christmas Parade" although it took place on Thanksgiving Day.  It was later renamed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.   Live animals including camels, goats, elephants and donkeys were a part of the parade that inaugural year.  The original parade route started at 145th Street and Convent Avenue and traveled 5.5 miles to 34th Street and Herald Square. 

In the first Macy's parade, horses pulled the elaborately decorated floats through the streets of New York.  In 1925 and 1926, bears, lions and tigers were added to the live animals used in the parade.  The practice was discontinued because some animals scared children along the parade route.  In 1927, Macy's replaced the live animals in the parade with its now signature giant helium balloons created by famed puppeteer and Macy's designer Tony Sarg.  The first balloons included Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant, and the Toy Soldier.

In 1928, Macy's began the practice of releasing the giant balloons at the end of the parade.  Equipped with return address labels, in 1929 Macy's began offering prizes for the return of the giant balloons.  In 1931, Clarence Chamberlian, an aviator flying above New York City caught the pig balloon in mid-air in order to the claim the $25 reward money.  The practice of releasing balloons was discontinued in 1933. 
The 1933 edition of the parade was the first-ever recorded for newsreels and subsequently shown in theaters around the world.  This was also the first time Santa Claus led the parade instead of ending it. From 1934 to present day, Santa Claus has taken his honored place at the end of the parade.
The parade was canceled for three consecutive years, 1942-1944 due to World War II.  At the start of the war, Macy's donated the balloons (that were made of rubber at the time) to the government's rubber scrap heap in a ceremony held at New York City Hall. 
In 1947, the holiday classic, "Miracle on 34th Street" brought the parade's magic to the big screen.  The success of the movie led NBC to begin telecasting the grand spectacle nationwide.  NBC has been the primary broadcast network of the parade since. 
Due to a helium shortage in 1958, Macy's inflated balloons with air and hoisted them on trucks with cranes for the journey down Broadway. 
In the 1980's, smaller 'novelty' balloons were introduced, including Macy's stars and the 30 foot triple-scoop ice cream cone.  "Falloons" were also introduced at this time.  A combination of float and cold air balloon, Falloons highlight the creative genius of the Macy's Parade Studio located in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The 1990's saw the parade balloons adding new characters from the Internet, video games and contemporary cartoons.  These new balloons keep the parade current and relevant to the younger, video savvy spectators.
In its 85-year history, more than 350,000 Macy's employees have participated  in the parade.  More than 50,000 clowns have delighted millions of children along the parade route.  The one-and-only Santa Claus has never missed the annual parade event, which ushers in the holiday season.
Photos courtesy of Macy's, Inc.


New York Times Square said...

An event that should not be missed each year! Whether in person, on the internet, or watched on television, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a family tradition!

mike509 said...

Truly a classic. A great retrospective! - how on earth can there be a lack of helium??? And who was using it in 1958 :)