This November, America’s favorite holiday tradition will mark a milestone anniversary, once again kicking off the holidays with its signature brand of magical entertainment. On Thursday, Nov. 24, the 90th Macy’s (NYSE:M) Thanksgiving Day Parade® will march down the streets of New York City as millions celebrate with family and friends. The unparalleled spectacle is set to enthrall more than 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of Manhattan and more than 50 million viewers on television, with a host of giant character balloons, dazzling floats, the nation’s best marching bands and performance groups, celebrities, and the official entrance of the one-and-only Santa Claus.
Since its origin in 1924, the Macy’s Parade has marked the official start of the holiday season, introducing a cherished march of magic that has dazzled generations of fans. For the 90th edition, the famed spectacle’s line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 27 novelty/ornament balloons, balloonicles and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 16 marching bands and performance groups.
For nine decades, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a march like no other. Bringing generations an unrivaled procession filled with more than 8,000 volunteer participants dressed as clowns, strutting their stuff in a marching band or escorting the Parade’s signature giant inflatables and floats of fantasy into the hearts of millions. Originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, the tradition was started by Macy’s employees who wanted to celebrate the holiday season with a grand pageant similar to the over-the-top carnivals and festivals of Europe. The first Parade featured fanciful floats, employee marching bands, clown groups and real animals from the Central Park Zoo. Stretching from Harlem at 145th Street and Convent Avenue down more than five miles to Macy’s Herald Square, the first event was such a success that it was deemed by Macy’s to be an annual event from that point forward. While many elements have grown and been adapted over time, the heart of the Parade has always involved Macy’s own employee volunteers, talented marching bands and dazzling floats – elements that have paved the way for imagination and grand spectacle. One of those jaw-dropping additions came in 1927. Replacing the live animals who some said scared children along the route, the Parade introduced its first inflatables, debuting four giant balloons filled with air and carried on sticks down the route. That inaugural balloon line-up included the first-ever, character-based balloon featuring the likeness of famed animated film star, Felix the Cat. To make the balloons lighter than air, the following year, helium was added, helping the giants float down the route.
Since its inception, the Parade has marched during tumultuous periods in our collective history. Only one event has ever caused the cancelation of the Parade and that was World War II. During a three-year period from 1941 until 1943, the event was put on hold due to the rationing of supplies such as rubber and helium and a moratorium on large public gatherings. After its brief hiatus, the Parade returned and grew in worldwide fame becoming even more synonymous with the holiday season after its starring role in the 1947 film classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.”
In celebration of this year’s 90th march, Macy’s will look back at the Parade’s starring role as a generational hit with audiences via a heartwarming television commercial debuting in mid-November. Produced by Macy’s and BBH NY, the spot, directed by Noam Murro, follows a young boy from his first Macy’s Parade experience through to his 90th year, as the Parade plays a special role in his life. The touching story showcases how this world-famous, larger-than-life event has created long lasting personal connections with generations as it continues to bring families together in celebration. Featuring the Parade through the decades, the mini film tells the story of two old friends as it invites viewers to Believe! “Old Friends: A Tribute to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” can be viewed on Macy’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/Macys.
As the Parade gears up to take its 90th march down the streets of Manhattan, very special guests will take to the streets like they’ve taken the world by storm for decades. The iconic Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the Muppets will dazzle and delight millions of fans as they kick off the celebration as only they can, with their signature musical and comedic revelry. Joining executive producer Amy Kule at the head of the Parade as she cuts the ribbon opening the march, will be U.S. Paralympic stars Tatyana and Hannah McFadden.
The 90th procession will feature a star-studded cast that will celebrate the holiday with America, giving fans along the route a thrilling moment with their favorite performers, along with providing the nation with first-class performances. Joining the festivities this year are Kelsea Ballerini; Tony Bennett; Aloe Blacc; Chloe x Halle; Easton Corbin; Daya; De La Soul; Diamante Eléctrico; Brett Eldredge; Fitz & the Tantrums; Christopher Jackson; Johnnyswim; Sandra Lee; Maddie & Tae; Sarah McLachlan; NHL legends Adam Graves and Eric Lindros; Ben Rector; Regina Spektor; the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street; Sprout’s Chica; Timeflies; U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists Michelle Carter, Laurie Hernandez and Claressa Shields; U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalists Mikey Brannigan, Gianfranco Iannotta; Grace VanderWaal; and Jacob Whitesides, among others.
The Parade’s signature giant character balloons have showcased the world’s most beloved cultural characters since the late 1920’s. Evolving from a simple paper sketch to giant wonders on Thanksgiving morning, the balloons are transformed by Macy’s “Balloonatics” into high-flying art.
This year, three new giant characters will take center stage including the return of Peanuts loveable blockhead Charlie Brown and a colorful and whimsical Diary of A Wimpy Kid®, as well as the debut of the stars of DreamWorks’ Trolls in a multi-character balloon.
The balloon line-up will also feature the return of the Parade’s first balloon star as DreamWorks Animation’s Felix the Cat. Designed and built using the same methods from the late 1920s, Felix will make his way down the route as he first appeared, carried on sticks, mimicking his debut appearance in 1927.
Returning giant balloon characters Angry Birds’ Red; Sinclair Oil’s Dino™; The Elf on the Shelf®; Hello Kitty®; Ice Age’s Scrat and his Acorn; PADDINGTON™; Pikachu™; Pillsbury™ Doughboy™; Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; Skylanders® Eruptor; SpongeBob SquarePants; and Thomas the Tank Engine®. The returning balloonicles (a Macy’s Parade hybrid of cold-air balloon and vehicle) include the famed-spokesduck The Aflac Duck.
The late 1960s saw a creative renaissance for the Parade, following the establishment of Macy’s Parade Studio. Home to incredible artists including carpenters, painters, animators, metal fabricators, scenic/costume designers and electricians, the Studio team took over the primary task of design, construction and maintenance of the Parade’s elements, previously done through a combination of external resources and internal talent. For more than four decades, Macy’s Studio was housed in an old Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken, New Jersey, before moving to a new state-of-the-art facility in 2011, where the team continues to evolve the designs of the larger-than-life elements. Macy’s floating wonders create a collection of magical delights that dazzle and transport spectators. The painstaking process of creating a Macy’s Parade float is both a creative and technical endeavor. Macy’s Parade floats are often three stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide, but must collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to safely travel from the New Jersey studio to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel.
This year, four new floats will debut including The Aloha Spirit by King’s Hawaiian®, Building A Better World by Girl Scouts of the USA, Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill®, and Fun House by Krazy Glue®.
The returning float roster includes 1-2-3 Sesame Street; At the Ball Game (Cracker Jack®); Big Apple (New York Daily News); Big City Cheer! (Spirit of America Productions); China’s Chengdu – Home of the Giant Panda (Sino-American Friendship Association); The Colonel’s Road Trip to NYC (Kentucky Fried Chicken); The Cranberry Cooperative (Ocean Spray®); Discover Adventure! (Build-A-Bear®); Free to Play (Sprout®); Frozen Fall Fun (Discover®); Girl-Powered Spinning Machine (GoldieBlox®); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown (Hallmark Channel); It’s All Rock & Roll (Gibson Brands®); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride (South Dakota Department of Tourism); On The Roll Again (Homewood Suites by Hilton®); Santa’s Sleigh; Snoopy’s Doghouse (Peanuts Worldwide); Stirrin’ Up Sweet Sensations (Domino® Sugar); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon); Tom Turkey; Treasure Hunt(Pirate’s Booty®); and Winter Wonderland In Central Park (Delta Air Lines).
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9 a.m. from 77th Street and Central Park West. Check your local listings.