Parade of past marches into future

Parade of past marches into future

Autumn Gramigna, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Before the turkey is carved and the football games begin, another Thanksgiving Day tradition takes center stage: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

For 86 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been considered the official start to the holiday season. According to Claire Suddath, a reporter for Time, more than 3.5 million people will crowd the streets of the 2.5 mile parade route from 77th Street to Macy’s Herald Square to catch a glimpse of all the excitement. An additional 50 million people will tune in to the parade from the comfort of their own homes.

In 1924, Macy’s employees created what originally became known as Macy’s Christmas Parade. Claire Suddath goes on to say that the employees, dressed in costume, marched six miles accompanied by marching bands, floats, and animals from the Central Park Zoo. Because of the enormous success of this parade, Macy’s decided to make it an annual event.

In 1927, Felix the Cat became the first balloon to take part in the Macy’s Parade. When helium was added to the inflatable balloons in 1929, they were released at the end of the parade. According to Macy’s website, “In those early years of flight, the balloons were equipped with return address labels offering prizes/rewards from Macy’s to those lucky enough to find them after they floated back to land.” Macy’s put a stop to the balloon release in 1933 after one of the balloons wrapped around a passing airplane’s wing, causing it go into a tailspin.

Today, the public is invited to watch the Macy’s Giant Balloon inflation from 3-10 p.m. on the day before Thanksgiving. This event takes place at the areas surrounding the Museum of Natural History beginning at 79th St. and Columbus Ave.

The Parade was canceled for three consecutive years, 1942 to 1944, due to rubber and helium shortages. The balloons were donated to the government and provided 650 pounds of scrap rubber that aided the war effort. New Yorkers were so overjoyed by the return of the parade in 1945 that over 2 million people turned out for the event, according to Macy’s website. The following year, the parade was televised locally for the first time. Since 1947, the parade has been broadcast live across the nation.

Dr. Gale Jaeger, associate professor of business, worked as a Senior Executive for Human Resources at Macy’s Herald Square for 13 years. Dr. Jaeger saw firsthand the hard work that goes into this production. “The 19th floor of Macy’s Herald Square is pretty much devoted to Parade work. They literally start planning for next year’s parade the day after Thanksgiving,” Dr. Jaeger said. “Macy’s puts a great deal of money into this parade. It is considered a gift to New York City.”

The 86th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, November 22.