Thanksgiving Day is all about the traditions. The way you cook your bird is often a tradition handed down by your mother, grandmother and great grandmother. The same can be said for many of the side dishes that will adorn your table. Then there are the traditions of breaking the wishbone for good luck which actually started with the ancient Romans so that’s a pretty old tradition. Another great tradition is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. In fact, it just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving until you can see at least one giant balloon float by. This year you can share a little history of the parade to dazzle your Thanksgiving guests with.

First Parade, First Balloon

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade (official title) was held in 1924. Most of the Macy employees were first generation immigrants who were so grateful to be in America celebrating a truly American holiday that they want to show their appreciation (or thanks). Back in the old country, parades were the way to celebrate so those immigrant workers got dressed up in costumes, put some Central Park Zoo animals on floats and marched down from 145th Street to the Macy’s store on 34th Street. Try the math with that one. That would be parading for 111 blocks. Compare that with today’s parade route that starts on 77th street and you can see those first marchers really liked to parade.

The first parade balloon was floated in 1927 and was Felix the Cat, a popular cartoon of the day. Mickey Mouse made his first balloon appearance in 1934. Now every year a new balloon or two are added and old ones are brought out of retirement. Raven Industries have been making the balloons since 1984 and yes, they are made in the U.S.A.

The first television broadcast was in 1948 which was pretty much around the time of first television broadcasts ever. The idea of tapping Broadway performers for a little song and dance started back in 1980 with the cast of The Pirates of Penzance. Plus, you can always count on the Radio City Rockettes to make an appearance. The parade ends the same way every year with the appearance of Santa Claus. For that first parade, Santa was crowned “The King of the Kiddies.”

“Oh, The Humanity!”

There are those devilish types among us who tune into the parade hoping to see a mishap with a balloon. Sadly, over the years they haven’t been disappointed. In 1957, the hat on the Popeye balloon filled with rain water and flooded some watchers when it tipped down. In 1986, the Raggedy Ann balloon knocked over a lamppost and the Superman balloon had its hand torn off by a tree. In 1993, the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon slammed into a lamppost and injured an off-duty copy. The most serious injury occurred in 1997 when winds forced the Cat In The Hat balloon into yet another lamppost. The falling debris struck a woman on the head and put her in a coma for a month. She recovered and holds the distinction of having the best Thanksgiving Day Parade story ever.

On some level the parade is a big ad for Macy’s. Even if you never make it to Macy’s you know they’re behind the parade. What is your favorite parade balloon? Have you ever gone to the parade in person? Inquiring minds want to know.