Thanksgiving is a time of familial gatherings and sweet and savory indulgences. The first thing that comes to mind when the holiday approaches is “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” As exciting as the early Christmas wake-up, Thanksgiving morn is a wondrous time in my household. Our countdown begins on Thanksgiving Eve — a night of restless anticipation — and finishes off on Thanksgiving Day, an entire day of continuous celebration. The parade, which airs annually on NBC, is a hallmark. The beautiful floats and the hot-shot celebrities lip-synching their hearts out construct an inviting ambiance that keeps our four pairs of eyes glued to the television. With a full heart and an inherent curiosity, I decided to trace the history of this internationally renowned event to satisfy my childhood aspirations.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade was first launched almost 100 years ago on Thursday, November 24, 1924. To highlight the grand opening of the “World’s Largest Store,” the board of Macy’s decided on a parade, a six-mile long stretch from 145th Street and Covenant Avenue to the Macy’s location on 34th Street and Broadway (Herald Square) that would inspire the shopping season. Intuitively, the parade was originally intended to celebrate Christmas and was named “The Macy’s Christmas Parade.” It featured animals from the Central Park Zoo, floats from classic Christmas tales (such as Little Miss Riding Hood and Little Miss Muffet) and a very jolly Mr. Claus as the special guest of the finale. In its grandeur, Macy’s event was an international success — drawing crowds of thousands of not just New Yorkers, but out-of-staters and international parade enthusiasts. Excited about the turnout, the board of Macy’s jumped on the bandwagon and began advertising the following year’s Macy’s “Christmas Parade” the very next day.
In 1927, Macy’s board incorporated helium into the parade. By doing so, the company upgraded the floats that retained a dedicated audience over the three-year period. The result: The Central Park’s zoo animals were relieved of their marching duties and a helium-filled Felix the Cat floated along the route in glory. In 1934, the first singer-actor Eddie Cantor joined the parade. From then on, the floats became larger, the number of performers greater and the audience wider.
In the present-day, information about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is available on Macy’s very own site. The interactive site includes the “2018 Parade Route,” which showcases a map upon which users can click and select a viewpoint from seven different spots (one of which is a restricted spot), labeled “A” to “G”: Kickoff, Central Park West, Columbus Circle, Central Park South & 6th Avenue, 6th Avenue and Herald Square. The site also features a 3-D version of the balloons, ballooncicles and floats, and a list of performers and marching bands. A link to the original Macy’s site and one to a parade shop where Macy’s lovers can splurge away are also available. Lastly, available for those special parade fanatics are: a studio tour, singing tree and behind-the-scenes thrills.