Behind the balloons: 14 fun facts about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off 9 a.m. this Thursday. The floats start in Manhattan Upper West Side neighborhood before moving downtown toward Macy's flagship department store on 34th Street in New York City.

The legendary parade has come a long way since its debut in 1924. The parade was originally named the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” and was started by store employees who wanted to celebrate the holiday season with an event reminiscient of their hometown European festivals.

The original 5.5 mile route had floats, workers marching. clowns and even some live animals like lions, tigers and elephants from the Central Park Zoo. In 1927, Macy’s decided rename the parade and gear it towards Thanksgiving. The company also introduced cartoon character floats. One of the first balloons ever used was Felix the Cat.


“This year, as we celebrate 90 years of magical moments, we are truly humbled by the unique role the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fills in the lives of millions worldwide," Amy Kule, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade told “We are thrilled to celebrate this special milestone with a spectacular line-up filled with amazing new and commemorative elements that will continue our storied legacy of unparalleled holiday entertainment.”

If you can’t make it to New York City to see the parade live (or you'd rather catch the floats in warmer weather), head down to the sunshine state. After the legendary parade marches in New York, several balloons and floats are shipped down to Universal Studios where the parade is recreated as “Macy’s Holiday Parade" which runs daily from Dec. 3 to Jan 1.

The Red Power Ranger soars above the holiday crowds.

The Red Power Ranger soars above the holiday crowds. (Macy's Inc)

Do you have a real passion for parades? Check out more fun facts about Macy's annual spectacle:

1) More than 50 million people will be watching the Macy’s Day Parade on television and 3.5 million people watching along the parade route.

2) The longest balloon in the parade is the Red Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger measuring 77-feet long. Just one of his arms is the size of a standard school bus.

3) More than 40 gallons of florescent paint and 5 barrels of glitter were used to create the flames on the character balloon, Eruptor from "Skylanders."


Felix the Cat was one of the parade's first cartoon floats.

Felix the Cat was one of the parade's first cartoon floats. (Macys Inc.)

4) It takes more than 800 internal tie-lines to keep SpongeBob SquarePants afloat. Spongebob Squarepants was the first-ever square balloon in the Parade.

5) Thomas the Train will be chugging along the parade route for it’s third year. The balloon measures 51-feet long, 23-feet wide, 47-feet tall, making Thomas the parade’s largest balloon by helium volume. It contains the most balloon fabric ever used to design one character.

6) The highest hair award this year goes to one of the newest balloons, Poppy of Dreamwork’s "Trolls," Branch and Guy Diamond - both Trolls' iconic hair stands more than 12-feet tall and it's one of the parade’s widest balloons at 38 inches.

7) The first ever character balloon in the Macy’s Parade is back this year and is modeled after the original 1927 balloon of the animated film star, Felix The Cat.  Felix has been created  using the same techniques that were used in the 20’s. He will also be  carried with poles.

DreamWorks' Trolls flies at Macy's Balloonfest in preparation for the 90th anniversary of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Citi Field on Nov. 5, 2016 in New York City.

DreamWorks' Trolls flies at Macy's Balloonfest in preparation for the 90th anniversary of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Citi Field on Nov. 5, 2016 in New York City. (Macy's Inc.)

8) This year’s parade features 16 giant character balloons; 24 novelty, balloonicles, balloonheads, and trycaloons; 26 floats; 12 marching bands, 1,100 cheerleaders/dancers; and more than 1,000 clowns some of which had to attend a clown school before marching.

9) More than 8,000 volunteers march along the parade each year.


10) Santa Claus has always been the last float in the parade to kick off the holiday season-- except for one year in 1933 when someone decided Santa should be at the front of the line.

11) Since 1927 there have been 174 giant character balloons in the parade.

12) The The Elf On The Shelf has been a parade staple since 2012. The Elf on the Shelf is also the tallest ballon at 64-feet.

13) Sarah McClaughlin is slated to appear this year atop the "Deck the Halls" float. The special vehicle is trimmed with more than 300 feet of garland and includes a Christmas tree three stories tall.

14) Macy’s Parade may seem larger than life-- but there are some restrictions. They must stay under three stories tall and, width-wise, can not take over several lanes of traffic. They also must be able to collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to safely travel through the Lincoln tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan.