Can it be so? This much-anticipated, 75 year-old event, hosted by the incomparable Big Apple, is a true, awe-inspiring New York City experience that is magical for both children and adults.
Where did it all begin? In the roaring '20s, employees of the incomparable Macy's Department Store were relatively newcomers to America. They wanted to mark this exclusively American holiday in a style they knew and loved back in Europe - the grand parade!
The Macy’s employees organized, dressed up in all kinds of costumes and marched through downtown New York City. Also in the parade were animals borrowed from the zoo, bands and colorful floats. The turnout for the unusual happening is estimated at 250,000, and the Thanksgiving Day Parade was born!
The first appearance of the legendary, gigantic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons occurred in 1927. The then extremely popular cartoon character Felix the Cat was the inaugural personality that generated gasps of awe. In those early years, it became customary to release the balloons at the end of the Parade. Whoever found one of the balloons after it came back to earth and turned it in would be given a prize.
For the next decade, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade increased in size and popularity. Despite (or perhaps because of) the Depression, over one million people lined the sidewalks to watch in 1934. Organizers introduced Walt Disney characters as new balloons. With the onset radio, audiences were treated to descriptions of the ceremonies, culminating with Santa's arrival at 34th Street (the world-famous address of Macy’s Department Store).
With the world at war in the 1940's, the parade was suspended. When the tradtion was renewed in 1945, television coverage began. Also the route of march was changed to what it is today.
With television criss-crossing the American landscape in the 1950's, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade became a must-see experience. Participation by beloved celebrities was also now a regular phenomenon. Whether dancing and singing along or riding atop floats, America’s best-loved entertainers joined in to thrill the cheering crowds as well TV viewers.
Despite the nation’s mourning over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963, the Parade carried on, however bittersweet. Organizers felt too many children would be disappointed if the beloved event were cancelled.
The Parade has always gone off despite bad weather. And those who handle the big balloons have had their challenges. Only once, in 1971, was the wind so strong that the balloons were grounded.
For native New Yorkers or tourists vacationing in the “City that Never Sleeps,” the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a breathtaking, festive, memory-making event not to be missed.