Inside the history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – why balloons replaced animals & only time it was ever canceled

2 months ago The US Sun

THE Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has a long and rich history dating back almost 100 years.

It has entertained millions over the decades and was only canceled during the Second World War.


A view of the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021, in New York City

Credit: Getty Images - Getty


A group of elephants pass by during the 1954 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Credit: Getty


Performers take part during the 90th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2016, in New York

Credit: AFP or licensors

Animals such as bears, camels, and elephants were used before Macy's decided to replace them with balloons.

The parade's history dates back to 1924 - two years after R. H. Macy & Co. stores opened for the first time.

Business boomed at the company's flagship store in Manhattan's Herald Square, so much so that it expanded in 1924 to cover an entire city block.

That's when the bosses decided to kick off the holiday shopping season with a New York Thanksgiving parade.

But back then, it was called the Macy's Christmas Parade as it was less about Turkey Day.

It focused more on the December holiday - or rather the presents that were bought to be placed underneath the tree.

Parade floats matched the nursey-rhyme theme in Macy's Christmas window display.

The event turned out to be so much of a hit that the following morning, Macy's put out an announcement in the newspaper saying that it will host the parade again the following year.

“We did not dare dream its success would be so great,” stated the newspaper advertisement, according to

While most people couldn't imagine the iconic Thanksgiving Day parade without the Snoopy balloon, the beloved inflatable characters from the parade used to be real-life zoo animals.

However, the animals from the Central Park Zoo didn't enjoy the six-mile-long celebration and neither did the marchers who had to cautiously walk in the parade with them.

Young spectators were also scared of the chilling noises made by these weary animals, so they were replaced by character balloons in 1927.

Character balloons quickly became the signature attraction of the parade after the debut of Felix the Cat.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Macy's would give away $100 to anyone who returned a drifted balloon.

However, in 1932, Macy's stopped releasing the balloons at the end of the parade because of the chaos that ensued when pilots would try to catch that balloons with their airplanes.


The annual Macy's parade romped its way down Central Park West and Broadway in the brightest possible Thanksgiving weather

Credit: Getty


Shirt Tales in a special performance by their float during the 1983 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Credit: Getty

The parade has shortened in length to two and a half miles, but has grown in grandness with dozens of balloons, marching bands, celebrities, and cheerleaders.

From the very first parade, Santa Claus remains the star of the show.

Many people have fond memories of watching the Macy's parade on TV while their family prepares a Thanksgiving feast, but the parade only started to be televised in 1948.

Before that, it was recorded on radio. However, the radio broadcast fizzled out in 1951.


The only time the Thanksgiving parade was canceled was from 1942 to 1944.

There was a helium and rubber shortage during World War II, which meant the celebration had to be put on hold.

Amid the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the parade still went ahead.

But, few spectators were allowed to attend the parade and there was no Macy's Balloon Inflation Celebration or marching bands.

This year's parade, however, will feature 16 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 40 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 700 clowns, 12 marching bands, and 10 performance groups.

There will also be an array of music stars and A-listers and the infamous Santa Claus.


A giant balloon of Bart Simpson floats in the air at the 69th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 23, 1995

Credit: Getty


This giant Mickey Mouse balloon, shown tied to a dirigible at Glendale, Calf., is a feature of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade

Credit: Getty

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