The very first Thanksgiving Parade started on November 27, 1924. The history took place in Harlem, on the corner of 145th Street and Convent Street. What has now become a popular Christmas tradition for thousands of visitors, and even a trademark of America, began when 400 department store employees moved.
Most of them were European immigrants who – far from home – missed the usual festivities around the pre-Christmas period and without further ado started a new tradition.
The employees were supported by Herbert Strauss, then head of R.H. Macy & Co. He placed his own newspaper advertisements. It promised New York an unforgettable experience and even then attracted almost a quarter of a million cheering parade spectators.
The special thing about the first parade is the numerous live animals (including camels and elephants) that took part. Accompanied by music bands and colorful balloons, the entourage made their way to Herald Square, where Macy’s Christmas decorated shop windows were then unveiled on 34th Street.
“Let’s have a parade!” has been moving millions of people across the country for over three-quarters of a century – even across national borders.
1927 – Macy’s hires its Christmas window set designer and decorator, Tony Sarg, to create giant balloons. It will eventually become the icon of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Sarg’s first designs, Felix the Cat, Dragon, Elephant, and Toy Soldier, were a resounding success. However, when filling the balloons, it is not taken into account that the gas expands into higher regions when it ascends and the figures burst.
1928 – Macy’s experiments with an air-helium mixture that is still in use today. In the same year, at the end of the parade, the balloons are released from their holders and fly into the sky as planned.
1929 – This year, for the first time, a return address is attached to the balloons and a prize is advertised for the finder. The Dachshund is also provided with such a card. In one of the following years, he ends up in the East River, where two tugboats tear him in two in a bitter struggle.
1931 – Airman Clarence Chamberlain grabs the pig balloon in flight over New York City. The next year, another daring aviator nearly crashes onto Broadway when he tries to catch the cat balloon.
1933 – In the interests of public safety, the balloons are no longer released at the end of the parade.
The 1930s stars of the time such as Benny Goodman and Harpo Marx take part in the Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
1934 – Tony Sarg and Walt Disney design new balloons, including Mickey Mouse, the Big Bad Wolf, the Little Pigs, and Pluto.
1939 – Comic characters like Superman pave the way for icons of pop culture who will continue to determine the image of the parade in the future.
The Fifties – 50s stars like Jackie Gleason, Shirley Temple, and Jimmy Durante take part in the parade.
1955 – The parade is broadcast on TV from CBS to NBC. Since then there has been a media partnership between Macy’s and NBC.
1957 – The figure of the sailor Popeye joins the parade.
1958 – In the absence of helium, the balloons are filled with air and mounted on cranes that year.
1962 – Sports stars like Willie Mays, Otto Graham, Jack Dempsey, and Ralph Terry take part in the parade for the first time.
1963 – The World’s Fair in Queens (1964) is welcomed with the “Elsie the Cow” balloon. A week after the assassination of President Kennedy, the parade wears a black ribbon.
1969 – The Macy’s Parade workshop moves back to Hoboken, New Jersey, to the former Tootsie Roll candy factory.
The Sixties – Actors Lorne Greene and Betty White hosted the TV broadcast from 1962 to ’71. Tony Bennett performs what he repeated in 2001.
1975 – The “Dino the Dinosaur” balloon is accepted as an honorary member of the American Museum of Natural History.
1977 – The “Parade Lady”, Jean McFaddin, will lead the parade for the next 24 years and thus become a Macy veteran.
The Seventies – From 1971 to 1981, host Carson was joined by Ed McMahon.
1986 – Bibo, the big yellow bird from Sesame Street, flies in the parade for the first time. In 2001 there is a new version of the large bird balloon.
1989 – The parade cannot be stopped by winter weather and takes place despite the snowstorm.
The Eighties – In the 80s, many stars from film, television, and the music scene were among the parade participants, including Diana Ross and Sammy Davis, Jr.
1993 – a hedgehog as a balloon? Everything is possible! With Sonic the Hedgehog, the first character from a video game moves into Macy’s Parade.
1996 – The Rugrats create the first balloon that represents three figures at once.
1999 – The butler Jeeves (from the search engine Ask Jeeves) becomes the first parade participant from the Internet.
The 90s – In the 90s, pop and country stars like Shania Twain and NSYNC count in the spotlight.
2000 – Once again the parade is led by “Bandleader Mickey”: For the third time Mickey Mouse flies in the front row.
2001 – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates its 75th anniversary!
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