The parade begins at 9AM ET. Get your spot along the route.
There's 2.5 miles of public viewing! Please note: grandstand tickets are not for sale to the general public.
See us on the mezzanine level of Macy's Herald Square and get your 10% off Visitor's Savings Pass. Plus, we can arrange your tickets to must-see attractions and help you get the most out of your visit!
Watch in 360° as one curious kid gets a tour he’ll never forget!
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It may be a bit post-season, but our four-story shortstop—the iconic Baseball Player balloon as featured in Miracle on 34th Street, celebrating its 70th anniversary this year—is ready to handle the longest fly balls and the hardest grounders. After all, he has a 12-foot glove!
They’re cute. They’re funny. They’re ready to text. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade emojis have arrived! Now you can light up your friends’ phones with text alerts of fun balloons & characters that are all about Thanksgiving joy.
Fingers, get ready. Download the emoji keyboard now for iPhone or Android.
Can I participate in the Parade as a balloon handler, clown or volunteer?
Since it began in 1924, participants have been Macy's employees, their families and friends or others who have a relationship with the Parade's elements and/or partners. This participation policy still exists today. With the exception of invited performing talent (i.e. marching bands, celebrities, singers, etc.), aspiring participants must fall under one of these categories and be approved via application granted by the Macy's Parade Office. Click here for the full Parade Participation Policy.
The purpose of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade® is to provide quality entertainment while bringing children and families together on this most cherished national holiday. This objective has remained consistent since the first Holiday Parade in 1924.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a privately-sponsored & privately-funded event, is regarded by Macy's as its annual gift to the nation. Parade participants are primarily employees or associates of Macy's or its affiliated companies, their families and friends, or others who have business relationships with the Parade, its broadcast partners and its Parade partners.
In line with the goal and historical traditions of the Parade, Macy's invites entertainers and others to participate based exclusively on their ability to provide appropriate family entertainment suitable to the occasion. These participants consist of a variety of celebrities, who may include athletes, musicians, singers and performers from the worlds of television, film and theater, as well as various talent-based performance organizations, such as high school and college bands, cheerleaders, dancers and choral groups.
While the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade respects and embraces America's diversity, our policy dictates that the Parade will not be used to represent any specific cause or special interest, no matter how worthy. Therefore, without judgment as to the merits, Macy's does not grant requests from any charitable, civic, political or cultural organization seeking to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The company and Macy's Parade organizers reserve the right to make all determinations relating to participation in the Parade on the basis of entertainment value and preserving the long-standing traditions of this unique national holiday event.
Can I buy tickets to the grandstand seating?
Unfortunately, tickets to this limited seating area are not available to the general public and are not for sale. We provide a small amount of seats to friends and family of our Macy's employees, volunteers and partners who are giving up their holiday to put on the Parade. We also provide a select number of seats for charitable organizations (501C3) to auction off at fundraisers. First come, first serve. Limited allotment per year, please contact: ParadeCharityTickets@macys.com
Where are the best places to see the Parade and what time should I get there?
The best places to view, depends on you! Early risers like to camp out starting at 6am along the west side of the street on Central Park West from 59th to 75th Streets, where the Parade runs from about 9am until 10:30am. If you prefer to arrive later, further down the route on 6th Avenue may be best—the Parade reaches this area around 9:30am. We don't suggest viewing from 6th Avenue between 34th and 38th Streets or in front of Macy's Herald Square, which provides very limited viewing due to the national television broadcast.
Can I buy a copy of the Parade broadcast?
This once-a-year event is best watched live! Unfortunately, no reproductions of the broadcast are available for sale or distribution.
I have an element (float, car, balloon, etc.) that I want to enter into the Parade, how can I do that?
We love and appreciate your enthusiasm, but all elements are designed and created by the artisans at Macy's Parade Studio. We have numerous guidelines that allow us to provide unique entertainment and best serve our performing talent.
I have a band/performance group that is interested in participating in the Parade, how do I apply?
Directors of marching bands may apply for the 2019 Parade, and directors of performance groups with unique entertainment value may apply for the 2018 Parade. Apply here.
I would love to propose or get married at the Parade, can you help arrange this?
Though it would be an honor to share in this special moment, this is not something that we can take part in or approve. At this time, we're devoted to producing the nation's most beloved holiday event and coordinating more than 8,000 participants, dozens of floats, balloons and vehicles, security and other major logistics.
Kick off the holiday season with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®. Each year, more than 3.5 million people in NYC and over 50 million people at home watch the Parade, which is why it’s so important that our corporate partners are up for the exciting task of bringing joy to Parade fans everywhere.
All media must have an NYPD press credential in order to be on the line of the march to cover the Parade. The NYPD press credential allows the accredited individual access to certain areas on the line of the march including portions of the Parade's starting line and route. Access is limited to the route from 38th Street through 75th Street only.
The NYPD does not issue event-specific credentials. If you do not have an NYPD press credential, you may still cover the Parade, but only from behind the barricaded audience areas. If you are a member of the foreign press, Macy's may be able to accommodate you at a small platform dedicated for this purpose. Please contact Macy's Media Relations for more information.
There is absolutely no media access between 34th and 38th Street on 6th Avenue and between 7th Avenue and Broadway on 34th Street.
We appreciate your adherence to these guidelines that are in place to maintain the integrity and safety of the Parade:
Members of the media are not allowed to stop or otherwise impede the movement of any Parade element.
Members of the media are not allowed to completely surround any Parade element.
Members of the media must follow the Parade from the curbside. Being in close proximity to any moving element may impede its progress or in some rare cases, can become a safety issue, as elements can make unexpected turns or stops.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade® press materials are generally available on November 1st of every year at macys.com/pressroom. These materials include various press releases, maps and photography.
Time Traveler App
Head to Macy’s at Herald Square
It’s like being in another decade! Our app turns your phone into a time portal, giving you a unique view of the parade as it appeared in the ’30s, ’60s and ’80s. Use your mobile device to pan the streets outside of Macy’s flagship store and watch as the camera fills your screen with 3D images of buildings, balloons and more from a different era.
The App Works in Your Local Macy’s Store, too!
Use your phone in your local Macy’s and capture the adorable character balloons that pop up on your screen. Don’t miss one!
The Fun Follows You
You can project your captured balloons around the house, in the park or wherever you go! Indoors, they’re tiny. Outside, they’re huge!
Ready to get started? Download the app now for iPhone or Android.
Please note: only directors may apply; applications from third parties will not be accepted.
Bob Hope Band Scholarship Award
Macy’s presents a $10,000 scholarship designed to honor one outstanding marching band member participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that exemplifies Bob Hope—an extraordinary humorist who served his community, was a wonderful leader and provided invaluable service to our country. The recipient’s school band program will also receive $10,000. The award was created to recognize Bob and Dolores Hope’s love of music.
Proudly Funded by the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation.
journey to the macy's parade
From a clown-in-training to one of the nation's best marching bands, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how their New York dreams come true.
Balloon Inflation Viewing
Frequently Asked Questions
I want to see the balloon inflation before the Parade. When does that start?
Join us for the Macy's Giant Balloon Inflation from 1pm to 8pm on the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday, November 22nd) outside of the Museum of Natural History (between West 77th and West 81st Streets).
Where is the entrance to the balloon inflation viewing areas?
The entrance has moved! This year, the new entrance to the giant balloon inflation area will be at West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue.
Will there be street closures?
Central Park West will be closed from West 72nd Street to West 86th Street beginning 12pm Wednesday, November 22nd through 12pm Thursday, November 23rd.
73rd Street through 85th Street will be closed from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue beginning 12pm Wednesday, November 22nd through 12pm Thursday, November 23rd.
The 79th Street Transverse will be closed from 12pm Wednesday, November 22nd through 12pm Thursday, November 23rd.
What are the closest subway stops?
For arriving guests:
- 72 St. station (at Central Park West) — B, C trains
- 72 St. station (at Broadway) — 1, 2, 3 trains
For exiting guests:
Volunteers can be found at the subway entrances on Central Park West at West 72nd Street and West 81st Street to help with directions.
- 81 St.-Museum of Natural History station (at Central Park West) — B, C trains
- 79 St. station (at Broadway) — 1 train
When I arrive, where do I go?
Guests arriving from the West Side can cross Columbus Avenue south of West 77th Street to join the viewing line at West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue.
Guest arriving from the East Side should utilize the 65th Street Transverse, then head northwest to join the viewing line at West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue.
Once I join the viewing line, where do I go to see the giant balloons?
Upon entering at West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue, volunteers will be located along the route to help guests find their way.
Guests will view the balloons moving clockwise around the Museum from the north side of West 77th Street, then the south side of West 81st Street.
Where do I go when I exit?
Guests may exit via:
- Subway entrance at West 81st Street and Central Park West (B, C trains)
- 79th Street Transverse (entrance at West 81st Street and Central Park West)
- 82nd Street heading west toward Columbus Avenue
What should I bring?
Weather can be unpredictable so dress in layers, wear comfy shoes and bring a poncho!
What items are prohibited?
For your safety, the following items are expressly prohibited: umbrellas, backpacks, large bags, alcoholic beverages, drones and e-cigarettes.
No personal property can be left or abandoned at the entrance or checkpoints.
It's a brand new millennium and Macy’s shakes things up accordingly. With new technology, creativity erupts in the parade studio. Balloons emerge in new shapes and flaunt futuristic details: SpongeBob gets his square pants, Buzz Lightyear sports a translucent helmet and Pikachu electrifies with flickering cheeks. Balloons even morph into whimsical hybrids! Tricaloons and balloonicles take center stage.
The experimenting continues in the Blue Sky Gallery. Here, Macy’s works with artists like Jeff Koons to create balloons that give contemporary art a lift. But in the shadow of all this progress lies tragedy: 9/11.
The message of the 2001 parade: we cannot forget but we can dream bigger and bolder in defiance. And so we do.
We will not be defined by tragedy. In 2001, we march on. First responders representing every NY agency lead the parade, hoisting giant flags shaped like the Twin Towers. First responders also pack the Daily News Big Apple float. Daniel Rodriguez, “the singing cop,” performs “God Bless America.” We honor those lost with a moment of silence.
While we’ve been showcasing balloon art since the late 1920s, our new Blue Sky Gallery showcases balloons as contemporary art. As in Jeff Koons’ “Rabbit,” Tim Burton’s “B.” and Keith Haring’s iconic “Figure with Heart.”
In an era of game-changing technology, the parade studio goes all in, too. We build a decidedly unround SpongeBob SquarePants (600 internal tension lines shape him squarely), Buzz Lightyear with a translucent helmet and an animated, three-segment Goldieblox float. Just an average day at the office, really.
A school that rewards students for clowning around in class? That’s Macy’s Clown U. Led by the Big Apple Circus, 900 volunteer clowns are trained to take slapstick and confetti seriously—but enjoy every second of it.
Class is in session. Watch now!
Balloon handlers, captains and pilots are depended upon to make our balloon giants soar on the big day. Enter Balloonfest, where we test fly each new balloon, giving balloon handlers hands-on training and the flight team an opportunity to pilot the new creations.
Let’s crunch some annual parade numbers: Approximately 300 marching bands apply. 12 are selected. 60% of balloon handlers are repeat volunteers. 230 dressers and 100 makeup artists prep 4,000 volunteers on site. The conclusion: it takes a whole lot of hard work and dedication to get this show on the road!
It takes exactly 16 handlers to fly Elf—the whimsical balloon that makes its debut in 2000. Elf soars at 36.25 feet high, 19.5 feet wide and 99 lbs.
Two of New York's icons celebrate exciting milestones in the same year! Singer Tony Bennett turned 90 and Macy's celebrated its 90th parade.
Macy's unveiled a permanent plaque at the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West, which is the parade starting line. The plaque was dedicated to the Macy's Volunteers who have put hours of time into creating one of New York's iconic moments.
Felix the Cat returns to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Last seen in 1927, Felix was brought back and modeled after the original design which included carrying the balloon on sticks.
From jeans to flat top hair, everything’s bigger in the ’90s. Coming off of a spate of parade advancements from the ’80s, Macy’s gives the crowds a visual feast with more floats and twice as many inflatables, spiking the balloon count from nine to eighteen.
But what are the ’90s if not a pop culture paradise? Haven’t we all been Saved By The Bell? Aren’t the Clueless always among us? The parade glides right into the belly of the mainstream. Bart Simpson’s balloon makes its gen-Y debut while floats deliver the artists bumping on our CD Discmans: Shania Twain, boy bands, Christina Aguilera and more. The parade has love for them all.
While balloons have always been inflated on New York’s Upper West Side the night before the parade, watching it happen becomes a big thing in the ’90s. That’s when the inflation area at 77th street expands to two blocks and makes room for twice as many balloons, boosting the count from nine to eighteen. Kids and adults love to come out and watch.
Certain animated stars get their cult-following start in the ’90s and the parade doesn’t hesitate to make them larger than life. Think Bart Simpson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sonic the Hedgehog (here’s where you bust out your Sega Genesis!)
In 1995, Macy’s has its first indoor exhibit of parade balloons and floats at the Park Slope Armory in Brooklyn. Balloon-A-Thon benefits the Prospect Park Alliance and a bunch of community charities.
Falloon: (fuh-loon) a cold-air inflatable balloon and float combo.
The brainchild of balloon and float guru Manfred Bass, falloons are introduced to the world in 1990 with The Wizard of Oz and Paddington Bear. More hybrids fun up the lineup in this decade, too, like Humpty Dumpty, M&Ms characters and the oceanic creation, Sea Venture.
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
Wiggleworm enters the parade scene in 1993 with an endless 70-foot-long body! Fifteen handlers are needed to keep this 91 lbs. and 15-foot-tall guy in check.
Oversized belts and huge shoulder pads—in the ’80s, big details are king. Macy’s has a moment with scale too, but of the cool balloon kind. 1980’s Superman creation is nearly 100 feet long and surfs the air as on-lookers watch in awe. It’s the parade’s biggest balloon yet!
And growth? It keeps on coming.
Macy’s ends partnership with Goodyear and balloon production moves in-house. Under the guidance of sculptor-turned-head-parade-designer Manfred Bass, balloons are shaped, chiseled and defined. Floats grow in size and swell in enchantment. A train float whistles down the parade route thanks to a period of ambitious engineering. It’s high-level animation and careful design like this that’s producing a new wave of fantasy for the parade—and greater art.
Time for dessert! The parade lineup gets just that with 1986’s Ice Cream Cone balloon. It’s 35-feet-tall, 22-feet-wide and 26 lbs. of pure confection. Ten balloon handlers anchor this sweet floating masterpiece.
1986’s Ice Cream Cone balloon
Balloon design moves in-house in 1984. With that move comes a new system of balloon flight command involving a trained crew that's ready for action.
MEET THE FLIGHT TEAM:
Balloon handlers: they lead the balloon along the parade route. Requirements: must be at least 18 years old and weigh enough to fly a hefty giant!
Captains: they organize the handlers, from getting the gang in costume to ensuring everybody’s in position to march.
Pilots: they lead the balloon’s flight! They learn whistle signals, hand signals and verbal commands to move handlers and balloons along the route safely.
Cool fact: one pilot is assigned to watch the balloon from the front by walking backwards for the entire route. Gotta make sure the balloon’s flying at the right height!
Handlers, captains & pilots for Kermit the Frog balloon
With balloon design now in-house, head designer Manfred Bass pushes the parade studio to move beyond simplified geometric shapes and sculpt balloons with more expression. Hence 1987’s Spiderman, with its super-detailed muscles and crawling form.
Goodyear’s balloon-making partnership with the parade ends in the early ’80s—after nearly six decades! Balloon design moves in-house to Macy’s parade studio and a fulltime staff takes the reigns. Macy’s 1980 Superman balloon is one of the last produced by Goodyear. At approx. 100-feet-long, it’s the parade’s biggest balloon yet.
In 1989, New York is hit with its first Thanksgiving Day snowstorm in 50 years or so, leaving a bunch of balloon handlers stranded. Macy’s improvises and puts a handful of its hundreds of cheerleaders on balloon duty. Cheerleaders always have their team’s back.
The parade heads to the red carpet in 1980 with its first Daytime Emmy® win for the 1979 NBC broadcast. The show wins its second one in 1982—the year 80 million viewers catch the parade on TV. A record number!
Daytime Emmy® award for the NBC broadcast of the parade
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
The Annie float debuts in 1981 as one of the largest ever built by Macy’s parade studio! The enormous replica of the orphanage and Warbuck’s mansion carries 17 actors from the original film. It’s so big that designer Manfred Bass rides atop the roof and radios the crew as they guide the float along the route.
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
1 school bus chassis
An engine and some axels
Farm tractor tires and a smokestack
Steel for the boiler you’re going to make
’Kay? Now assemble.
The parade studio’s hallmark train creation takes float animation to another level. The studio even figures out a way to create train wheels with a fiberglass mold!
Steam locomotive parade float from the 1980s
Big, bold and fab—of course it’s the ’70s! Everything’s making noise, and that goes for entertainment, too. Disco from the Bee Gees dominates the Billboard charts. Donna Summer’s out with her new smash, “Last Dance.” Motown hits radio gold with songs from the Jackson 5.
And the parade’s got talent to spare.
Diana Ross, Queen of Motown, is on the lineup. So is motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel! Even the Kermit the Frog balloon heads to England for a royal event.
But perhaps the biggest star of the parade is behind the scenes. In 1977, Jean McFaddin joins the show as parade director, and her entertainment ideas take the show to a whole new level. At the top of the list: give the show a big dose of Broadway.
From “Annie“ to “The Wiz,” major Broadway acts perform at Herald Square beginning in the late ’70s when Texas-born Jean McFaddin comes on board as the new parade director.
Chita Rivera performing at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy’s sprinkles a fun, unexpected mix of razzle-dazzle in its parade lineups through the ’70s. There’s opera singer Jessye Norman, music icon Diana Ross, song-and-dance man Ben Vereen and stunt performer Evel Knievel.
Evel Knievel at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Fun fact #1,000,000: Betty White co-hosts the parade with Bonanza actor Lorne Greene from the early ’60s into the ’70s. See? The world has always loved her.
Parade co-hosts Lorne Greene and Betty White
The Parade has built itself up to be one of the biggest entertainment events of the year. Nobody wants to miss the Village People dancing on the Jukebox float or Menudo singing on top of—a bus. Check out the vintage ’70s tickets!
No balloons in 1971’s parade! A torrential downpour grounds the entire cast of inflatables for the first time in parade history. No worries, though. NBC airs clips of balloons from 1970’s parade and the show goes on. Phew.
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
Macy’s Star takes to the skies in 1986 at 10-feet-deep, 25-feet-high and 27-feet-wide. Controlled by eight handlers, it tips the scale at 50 lbs.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy vows America will send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. And that’s what America does! In 1969 Neil Armstrong is the first person to step foot on the moon. But not before unexpected tragedy hits: President Kennedy is assassinated just days before the 1963 parade.
Should the ceremony go dark for a second national crisis? A phone call to Macy’s from the Kennedy family answers the question.
The show must go on.
To look at space is to look towards the future—and a new one is taking shape for the parade. The 1963 lineup begins to cement the parade’s long history with pop culture creations. Plus, there’s the emergence of Manfred Bass, the gifted sculptor and childen’s book illustrator who brings exciting new ideas to float design in the years to come.
President John F. Kennedy is assassinated just four days before 1963’s parade. The Kennedy family calls Macy’s and asks that the parade still go on—the children need it.
Children’s book illustrator and sculptor Manfred Bass joins the parade team in 1964 and completely modernizes Macy’s floats with creations animated by hydraulics. A dog tail wags, a bird flies—his floats are the future.
The parade cements its long running history of highlighting popular culture characters as balloons, adding two cute inflatables to 1963’s line up: Sinclair Oil’s Dino and Elsie the Cow.
The celestial coups of the ’60s, in no particular order: Ed White is the first American to walk around in space. President Kennedy commits to sending a man to the moon. Neil Armstrong takes his first steps on the moon. Macy’s sends its 1969 Astronaut Snoopy balloon—straight to the lineup.
1969’s Astronaut Snoopy balloon
The parade adds new animated star balloons to its roster throughout the ’60s, including Bullwinkle J. Moose from the popular TV series, The Bullwinkle Show. Also on the list: Donald Duck and forest fire mascot Smokey Bear. Check out the balloons + their original sketches!
Guess who joins the parade in the ’60s? America’s TV faves! Bob Hope serves as “King” of the parade while Shirley Jones and cast members of Bonanza ride down Broadway on horseback.
Stars of Bonanza on horseback at the parade
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
Recreated in 2012 as a mid-size balloon, Happy Dragon is produced by Goodyear Aerospace and makes its very first appearance in 1960.
1960’s Happy Dragon balloon
Welcome to the decade that reaches for the stars!
As more marquee names sign on, the talent lineup grows. The 1953 show is packed with film and television heavyweights—from Howdy Doody to Oscar-winning actress Ginger Rogers. The crowd expands too, with NBC’s broadcast gaining fans and eventually, Technicolor.
Not even storm showers can rain on the parade in the optimistic ’50s! Popeye keeps his head up during his watery debut. Mighty Mouse powers his way down the route in rough weather. And air-filled balloons on cranes solve the parade’s run-in with a national helium shortage. Spirits run so high there’s only one place left to go by the end of the decade:
The parade shines under an even bigger spotlight as it draws superstars like Roy Rogers, Ginger Rogers and puppet Howdy Doody. As if 60-foot balloons weren’t entertaining enough...
In 1958, for the first time, the parade lines up the Rockettes. And the rest is history.
The parade gets its first taste of Broadway in the 1950s with famous faces like Jackie Gleason repping popular shows. Not to be outdone, the silver screen serves up big names, too. Shirley Temple Black was the “Princess” of 1959’s parade, signaling the end of the decade.
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
In celebration of Macy’s 100th Christmas, Santa unveils the Christmas windows at Herald Square for the last time at the end of 1958’s parade. The ceremonious finale got its start with the very first parade in 1924, when festive marionette scenes decorated the store’s windows.
Santa Claus riding in on his float at the parade
From Bill Smith
Macy’s Parade Guest Archivist
Popeye makes his rain-soaked debut in 1957. During his journey, his cap repeatedly fills up with water and weighs down his 14-foot head until he snaps it back up again.
In 1958, the government asks Macy’s to forgo helium amidst a nationwide shortage. Macy’s planners instead find a solution that’s a real breath of fresh air. A whole lot of breaths, actually: plain, old air and cranes keep the show afloat.
1958’s Toy Soldier balloon on crane
Spaceman makes its way down the parade route in 1952 and is constructed by Goodyear Aerospace from a neoprene-coated fabric similar to a bicycle tire inner tube—just like balloons from years before!
Standing on the steps of City Hall in 1942, Macy’s President Jack Straus makes the announcement. The parade will take a backseat to World War II. And for the first time ever, the parade won’t go on. With New York City’s mayor at his side, Straus deflates the parade’s green dragon balloon and donates the rubber to the U.S. military.
But when the war ends in 1945, so does the parade’s hiatus. Nine new balloons are added and over two million people attend that year. And in 1947, the parade gets a major cameo in the holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. But the sweetest win of all comes in 1948: the parade’s first national televised broadcast on NBC.
Supersize balloons make their way to the lineup in the ’40s! Check out these massive rubber friends.
No parade this year, folks. Macy’s President Jack Straus shuts the pageantry down as America enters WWII. He donates approx. 650 lbs. of balloon rubber to the fight. Cancelled for the first time since its inception, the parade is a no-go from 1942-1944.
November 22, 1945. Months after the war ends, the parade springs back to life like it was never gone: nine new balloons, two million-ish spectators and an NBC camera crew that airs the parade’s first-ever local broadcast. In 1948, the network takes the show nationwide.
The parade makes its film debut in 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. In 1946, Macy’s employees are cast in more than half of the roles. Glad they didn’t work for some other department store that year.
Fun fact: Edmund Gwenn stepped in for Santa in 1946’s parade—as he filmed his starring role in the holiday film classic.
How do the littlest paradegoers brave November’s chill in the ’40s? Sheepskin-lined aviator helmets with chin straps and super-long wool stocking hats. All under $3 at Macy’s.
Macy’s catalogue from the 1940s
Fireman joins the lineup in 1948, measuring in at approx. 60-feet-tall and 30-feet-wide. His recycled rubber has taken on a few balloon forms, including 1940’s Clown and 1946’s Baseball Player.
It’s in the air—an excitement as real as the apples sold on corners for pennies. Parade onlookers hit the one million mark and theater newsreels around the country capture the excitement. The parade proves that it can grow—even in the Great Depression. Maybe it’s because people need a little joy? Success gets Macy’s thinking about possibilities. Balloons were great; now what else can we do?
Like release balloons at the parade’s finale—and let the characters float away. Award store gift cards for their return! Shock spectators with new balloons—ones that hiss and laugh and cry. Bring entertainers to Macy’s marquee—like Eddie Cantor. Make a balloon in the likeness of the vaudeville star. And while we’re at it, we can change our name.
Welcome to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
1929-1932. Balloons are released at the end of the parade with a tag attached offering a $25 Macy’s gift card for their return. And returned they were! With puncture wounds from bounty hunters. Or caught mid-air by daredevil aviators. So that had to end.
The dachshund barks, the pig oinks and the baby cries. 1933’s balloons have sound effects! Even Andy the Alligator hisses like a real crocodilian—a sound the parade improvs with a pan of frying bacon.
It’s a one-time-only thing but in 1934 Macy’s takes a stab at designing a balloon in the likeness of a real person: super-famous-at-the-time vaudeville performer Eddie Cantor. That’s the same Eddie Cantor that’s fictionalized, decades later, as a character on the HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
1934’s Eddie Cantor balloon
How’s this for a balloon first? The parade designs an inflatable version of 1883’s children’s book character Pinocchio. His nose alone takes over 20 handlers to control.
Celebrities join the parade at Macy’s marquee starting in 1934 with Eddie Cantor. Other stars make an appearance in this decade, too: actor Harpo Marx, singer Jessica Dragonette and bandleader Benny Goodman. In 1938, WOR Radio begins broadcasting the excitement.
Dachshund joins the balloon pack in 1932 with a sound effect-enabled design that allows this dog to bark! A modern iteration debuts in 2003 with lighter polyurethane-coated material and no sound.
It’s a two-block long procession, the first parade. It's the roaring ’20s and there are no rules. Elephants, camels and donkeys march in jagged rows. Traffic jams. The peculiar walks by: Macy’s employees dressed like gypsies and giants. Jazz bands blow sounds of brass into the crowd—a quarter million bodies packed along the route. Santa’s float is making its way from 145th Street to Macy’s at 34th Street. It’s a media sensation, lauded by the Newark Ledger and the New York Herald Tribune.
It’s a great idea.
In 1924, a group of Macy’s employees asks the company to put on a parade. Their request: to celebrate their newfound freedoms and the coming of Christmas. Many in the group are first-generation immigrants wanting to show pride in the new place their families call home.
Macy’s first parade packs the streets in 1924 after employees ask the company to have a parade on Thanksgiving that’ll be all about giving thanks and the coming of Christmas.
Elephants, tigers and other Central Park Zoo animals walk the procession from 1924-1926, but it’s not for everybody. The practice ends when word spreads that kids are freaked by growls and roars.
Elephants in Macy’s Christmas Parade
Visionary theater & industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes beefs up Macy’s float game in 1926. His modernist eye creates work-of-art-caliber floats: Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella’s Coach and Santa’s ride to the grand finale.
He’s the superstar puppeteer & illustrator who heralds Santa’s arrival, creating marionette scenes like Arabian Nights and Little Bo Peep for Macy’s Christmas windows. The scenes are unveiled at the parade’s grand finale.
Tony Sarg with 1927’s Elephant balloon
Animals lose their parade marching rights in 1927. Macy’s gets Tony Sarg to design massive balloons. Inspired by the idea of upside down marionettes, Sarg teams up with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant Company to make the Parade’s first set: air-filled characters propped up on sticks! But helium is on the way...
1928. Macy’s Christmas Parade. Balloon handler levitates. Well, it’s not uncommon. As balloon technicians correct helium amounts, some handlers get to watch the parade from ten feet off the ground. Nothing wrong with an aerial view.
Inflated with air and carried on sticks, Toy Soldier debuts in 1927 at approx. 60-feet-tall and 30-feet-wide. In 2001, Toy Soldier is recreated as a medium-size balloon with stronger fabric and modern technology.