An iconic part of most American’s Thanksgiving traditions is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Millions of people flock every year to celebrate the holiday and “ooh and ahh” at the famous floats, but the parade we all know and love has evolved quite a bit over the years. Here’s five fun facts you probably didn’t know about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The original parade was to celebrate Christmas
The original parade, started in 1924, was actually Christmas themed to welcome Santa to New York City and celebrate Macy’s flagship store being the “World’s Largest Store”. The Christmas parade had 10,000 spectators and even had animals from the Central Park Zoo. In 1927, the parade was changed to the Thanksgiving Day parade that we know today.
The parade was canceled during WWII
During America’s involvement in WWII, Macy’s decided to temporarily cancel the parade from 1942-1944 in an effort to help the American military. The rubber used to produce the floats was donated to the military. The cause resonated well with the American people, and when the parade returned in 1945, 2 million people were in attendance along with the NBC News.
The balloons go for a “test run”
Each year, Macy’s has a test run for the balloons to ensure everything goes smoothly on the day of the parade. This event held at Citi Field is known as Balloonfest and requires hundreds of volunteers to get the floats ready for their debut. The event isn’t open to the public, but if you’re in the vicinity, you can usually get a sneak peek from a distance.
A helium shortage almost halted the parade in 1958
Macy’s partnered with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and rigging specialist Traynor & Hansen Corporation to keep the balloons afloat during a helium shortage in 1958. The balloons were filled with air and dangled from construction derricks to hoist the balloons up.
All of the balloons are designed by Macy’s artists
The balloon designers, known as “balloonatics” start designing and sketching the balloons a year before each parade. After the sketches are approved, they are turned into clay models and eventually become miniature versions of the real thing. The miniature balloons are submerged into water and filled with helium until they float to determine how much helium the full scale balloon will need. First time balloons cost at least $190,000 to produce.
These fun facts are sure to make great conversation at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Don’t forget to tune into the parade this year on NBC starting at 9AM EST.