The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade, held in New York City each year since 1924 with the exception of three years during World War II. Sponsored by Macy's department store, which has its largest store in New York City, the parade is broadcast each year by the National Broadcasting Network on Thanksgiving morning to millions of viewers.
First Macy's Parade
The initial Macy's Parade was held Nov. 27, 1924 and was billed as Macy's Christmas Parade. It was staged to bolster holiday shopping and to garner new customers for the huge Macy's store in the city. Automobiles carried floats down the streets over a two-mile section of Broadway, with the route starting in Central Park and ending at Herald Square, the location of the store. Costumed employees of Macy's rode the floats and walked in the parade, which also featured animals that were "borrowed" for the day from the zoo in Central Park.
The first parade drew an estimated quarter of a million spectators, so Macy's decided to make it a yearly venture. Balloons that depicted cartoon characters and various animals were added, with the first helium-filled versions coming in 1927. These balloons were popular with the crowds of people, but blew apart high in the sky. They were redesigned the following year with safety valves. The first cartoon character balloon used in the parade was Felix the Cat, with Mickey Mouse making his first appearance in the 1934 parade.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was first shown on local television in 1946 and nationally in 1947. Over the years, the character depicted by the most different balloons has been the Peanuts' character Snoopy. The various floats are constructed in a former factory in Hoboken, New Jersey in such a way that they can be folded to be transported into the city. As many as three million spectators now line up on Thanksgiving morning to watch the parade. The balloons are inflated the day before between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, where the public can watch.
The old parade route began at 77th Street and Central Park West. The parade used to make its way to Columbus Circle before going onto Broadway. It meandered down that famous street before making a westward turn onto 34th Street nearby to Herald Square. It would then finish at Seventh Avenue.
Beginning in 2009 the parade route was changed. It now begins at the same location and heads south down Central Park West, but rather than making the turn onto Broadway it goes east on Central Park South. When the procession reaches Seventh Avenue, it turns south and proceeds to 42nd Street, moving along between Seventh and Sixth avenues. Once at Sixth Avenue, it goes south to 34th Street, west to Herald Square, and then ends at the intersection of 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.