A Brief History Of The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade



Rain stuff lauren. Boko bomb here on the fourth Thursday of the month the same day that most Americans gather around the dining table to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. The macy's Thanksgiving Day parade marches through the streets of New York City city elaborate floats giant helium balloons marching bands acrobats and celebrities create a carnival atmosphere for more than eighty years. The parade has has drawn spectators who lined the streets cheer on the participants covering two and a half miles. A three hour spectacle runs from nine. AM to noon. The holiday event has grown and grown over time from a small parade of floats and live animals organized by macy's employees into large-scale annual tradition to this day though apart from performing coming talent all other parade participants such as balloon handlers are macy's employees and their family and friends. The parade showcases more than eight thousand participants pence and crowds of more than three point. Five million spectators crammed Manhattan streets for close up view. Another fifty million watch the prayed on TV. So how did we you get here. macy's department store celebrates its one hundred and sixty first anniversary in two thousand nineteen store staged. Its first Thanksgiving Day parade in nineteen twenty twenty four that year it was called the macy's Christmas parade and it featured three floats pulled by horses. Four bands and zoo animals from the central park zoo including camels donkeys elephants and goats. Santa Claus was last in the lineup. A tradition that continues to this day it was all staged by end at the request. Request of macy's employees many of whom had just emigrated to America from Europe along to celebrate their new home in nineteen twenty seven the gigantic balloons. That are now. The signature element of the parade made their first appearance with the help of helium. The balloon replaced the zoo animals. That were frightening to some children and the first balloons included cartoon tune characters like Felix the cat at the conclusion of the parade. The giant balloons were released into the air in nineteen twenty eight. macy's began offering the one hundred dollar reward for any returned balloons which were fixed with the return address label in nineteen thirty one pilot. Colonel Clarence e chamberlain snagged a balloon with his airplanes wings leading to a ban on retrieval by airplanes the following year and after the nineteen thirty two parade another pilot attempted to capture a balloon in nearly crashed leading macy's to discontinue releasing the balloon loons at the parade's end in nineteen thirty four celebrities became an important element of the parade but senior actor. Eddie Cantor joining the event that year. The the Mickey Mouse Helium Balloon was also introduced that you're parade goers from nineteen forty two to nineteen forty four. The prey was cancelled because of the shortage of helium and rubber during world world. War Two those three years. The only time that the celebration has ever been called off when the prey returned nineteen forty five. It was broadcast on television for the first time time and was bigger than earlier versions. But the floats didn't achieve their current spectacle status until nineteen sixty nine when Manfred Bass began creating them best asked designed to them so that they could be flattened their trip through the Holland tunnel they were then reassembled during the predawn hours of the parade. Today macy's begins planning planning for the parade at least a year in advance and includes float and balloon creation celebrity booking volunteer coordination and training for clowns and balloon handlers. As the prayed it grows closer. The preparations get more intense in two thousand. Nineteen macy's celebrating. Its Ninety Third Parade with twenty six floats sixteen giant helium character balloons and forty heritage and novelty balloons and eleven marching bands. But let's talk about those balloons a former tootsie roll factory in Hoboken New Jersey just across the river from New York City. The balloons are created by the macy's parade studio. It all starts with a pencil sketch. Aerodynamic and engineering consultants assist calculations to make sure the balloon will fly properly exact scale replicas. One made out of clay and one painted model are fashioned before the actual balloon is cut out fabric. Each balloon. has several chambers and includes a zipper and inflation device and a high pressure valve flight. Inflation and deflation tests are run and cosmetic adjustments are made. Finally finally the balloon can appear in the parade up to a year after the process began balloons. These days are constructed of polyurethane though they used to be made of rubber since the switch from air to helium these behemoth balloons have coasted along with a big dose of help from Volunteer Balloon Wrangler. But it hasn't always been that easy to keep the balloons afloat. In nineteen fifty-eight the balloons were filled with air and hoisted by cranes onto trucks. Due to a helium shortage and poor weather conditions kept the balloon from being inflated at all in nineteen seventy one the balloons dimensions vary but most are about five six stories high and somewhere around sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. Each balloon needs around Ninety D.. Handlers in all their around two three thousand balloon handlers for the prayed these handlers must weigh at least one hundred and twenty pounds and be in good health of those only a few hundred team leaders are required to attend training though all are invited. Training includes lessons on dynamics geometry and physics then Blantyre's practice handling one of the big balloons on a field. The team leaders include an overall leader pilot captain and two drivers a police officer marches with each balloon own handlers. Hold the ropes to guide the balloon and each balloon is also tethered to two eight hundred pound. Utility vehicles instruments that measure the speed of wind. called called a Momma's I think are mounted on Poles at key points along the route and each one is monitored with a portable computer by a police officer in a New York City office of Emergency Management Representative. Well before the prayed begins objects that could obstruct balloons including arms of lamp posts traffic signal. Polls streetlights and trees are either altered or removed on the eve of the parade. The balloons and floats are brought. To New York City. Setup begins by six. AM Thanksgiving Day. The balloons and floats are ready to go. And prayed. Great participants take their places for the nine. AM prayed start. After the parade floats are mmediately disassembled. Balloons deflated. An all returned to their warehouse in hoboken again. Today's episode was written by Kathleen Sealer Naree and produced by Tyler. Clang brain stuff is the production of iheartradio's how stuff works for more on this and lots of other well-coordinated topics visit our home. Planet has two forks dot com and for more podcasts from iheartradio visit by heart radio. APP Apple Apple podcasts. Or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Coming up next