For most people, Thanksgiving means turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. For millions of people, Thanksgiving Day is not complete without a Thanksgiving parade. The most famous Thanksgiving parade is probably the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Held every year in New York City since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the largest parades in the world. It is also one of the oldest parades in the United States, having started the same year as America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit and only four years after Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Whichever parade happens to be your favorite, here are 10 fun Thanksgiving parade facts that are sure to prepare you to tune in this year.
10 Fun Thanksgiving Parade Facts
Many of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade participants are Macy’s employees.
Since the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, participants have been Macy’s employees, their families, and friends, or people who have a relationship with one of the parade’s partners. People hoping to participate in the parade must fall under one of these categories and be approved through an application granted by the Macy’s Parade Office. The only exceptions to this policy are invited performers such as marching bands, celebrities, and singers.
The last time any of the three major parades did not run was during WWII.
Both the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit were suspended as a result of World War II because of the need for rubber and helium to go towards the war effort. Both parades resumed in 1945.
The Macy’s parade donated all the balloons to the war effort. In total, they donated 650 pounds of scrap rubber to the government for use in World War II.
Santa is always at the end of the Thanksgiving parade.
From the very first Thanksgiving parade in Pennsylvania in 1920, the parade has always ended with Santa Claus, as is the case with the Detroit and New York parades. In that very first parade, which was sponsored by Gimbel’s department store, the parade closed with Santa arriving at Gimbels’ toy department on the eighth floor by climbing the ladder of a Philadelphia Fire Department truck. At the end of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, Santa was put on a throne at the department store in Herald Square and crowned “King of the Kiddies.”
Only once in the history of the Macy’s parade has Santa not been the finale. In 1933, he started the parade instead.
Macy’s used to release the giant balloons into the air at the end of the parade.
At the end of the 1928 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the balloons were released into the air and unexpectedly burst. The next year, the balloons were redesigned with safety valves so that they would float for a few days. Starting in 1929, the balloons were released at the end of Thanksgiving parade with an address tag attached that offered a $25 Macy’s gift card for their safe return. Imagine seeing a giant Snoopy balloon floating over your neighborhood a few days after Thanksgiving!
Balloons were returned with puncture wounds from being shot down by bounty hunters and some were even caught mid-air by daredevil aviators. So for safety reasons, Macy’s put an end to the balloon release in 1932.
The parade scenes in the movie Miracle on 34th Street are actual parade footage.
The scenes in the movie, which was released in 1947, are from the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The film’s producers set up cameras all along the parade route. Another fun fact – the Santa Claus riding in the parade that year was actually the actor Edmund Gwenn who played Santa in the film.
Each giant balloon has a “pilot” who is responsible for directing the balloon along the parade route.
Pilots learn whistle signals, hand signals, and verbal commands to navigate the balloons and their handlers along the route safely. Each pilot watches their balloon from the front by walking backward for the entire parade route. Macy’s holds pilot training a few times each year to prepare pilots for the big day.
Snoopy has appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade more than any other character.
Snoopy made his debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1968 and has made 39 appearances in the parade. He has appeared in seven different balloon versions. In 2019, an eighth Snoopy balloon will debut and will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Macy’s considered suspending the parade after President Kennedy was shot.
President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas days before the 1963 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Parade organizers were considering suspending the parade for the first time since World War II until a call from the Kennedy family encouraged them to go ahead with the parade that year to bring joy to the country.
Unique to America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit is a large collection of papier-mâché heads.
The inclusion of the papier-mâché heads, known as The Big Head Corp, came from Hudson Department Store’s display director Charles Wendel. He had seen similar papier-mâché heads on a recent trip to Europe. The heads are made in Viareggio, Italy and have always been a staple of the Detroit parade.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade originally included live animals.
From 1924 until 1926, live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo were featured in the parade. Animals included monkeys, lions, bears, camels, and elephants. Apparently, some of the animals scared children along the parade route, so in 1927 the animals were replaced with the parade’s first giant balloon, Felix the Cat.
With the oldest Thanksgiving day parade being one hundred years old, it is hard to think about the holiday without thinking about a Thanksgiving parade. That is why while preparing the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, millions of homes will be tuned in to one of the parades and awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Need some help with Thanksgiving Dinner? Check out this article on 8 FUN WAYS FOR YOUR KIDS TO HELP WITH THANKSGIVING DINNER.
Photo Credits: flickr.com
Sources: 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, America’s Thanksgiving Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Fun Facts, 6 Cool Facts You Never Knew About the Macy’s Day Parade