by Shannon Padgon
The iconic towering balloons, eager crowds, and New York scenery millions of people gather to experience every year at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has become nothing short of an American tradition. Whether you watch on your television or brave the large groups of people, I would bet that you’ve seen at least one version of the parade in your lifetime! It’s easy to picture the parade as being much the same every year, but the truth of the matter is it has undergone many transformations since 1924.
In fact, the first parade in 1924 didn’t happen on Thanksgiving at all! It was on Christmas day. When over 250,000 people attended the event, it was decided to make the parade annual. The official first helium balloon debuted in the parade in 1928; Felix the Cat! Felix’s design and initial idea came from a man named Tony Sarg, who was actually a puppeteer. At the end of the parade, the balloon handlers realized they hadn’t planned for any kind of deflation for Felix. Therefore, they released the massive helium balloon into the sky. Unfortunately, like any balloon, he popped after not very long. Apparently, the tradition of releasing the balloons continued; they were made more durable and able to last a few days upon being released. When they did eventually pop, whoever found the balloon would find a return label and upon returning the balloon to Macy’s, would receive a gift. That is, until one year a balloon caught around an airplane’s wing and it was established to be too dangerous to continue to let the balloons float around.
Some interesting facts about the parade: Snoopy is the character who has had the most personal floats. In 1933, more than 1 million people attended the parade. Today, approximately 3 and a half million people attend the parade in person. Initially, the parade had a 6-mile route, beginning at 145th street and ending in Herald Square. It’s been shortened throughout the years, and this year it lasts from 77th Street to 34th street, about 2 and a half miles. This grand old year of 2016 is the 90th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. And guess whose making another debut? None other than Felix the Cat! So keep an eye out.