Opening of the parade; photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc
It’s turkey time! The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade hits the streets of Manhattan for the 93rd time on Thursday, Nov. 28. Since 1924, the parade has kicked off the holiday season each year with balloons, live performances, and a sense of cheer. If you’re going to be one of 50 million people watching the festivities from home, or joining the crowd of 3.5 million people attending, there are a ton of fun facts and figures to know ahead of time. From the number of marching band members (2,793) to the hours of work put in by Macy’s team pre-parade (50,000), learn the ins and outs of one of NYC’s greatest celebrations, by the numbers.
An elephant procession in the first Macy’s Parade in 1924; photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc
There have been 93 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades, with the first event taking place in 1924.
The parade has been canceled 3 times. During World War II, rubber and helium shortages forced Macy’s to drop the parade in 1942, 1943, and 1944. According to Mental Floss, the company deflated its rubber balloons and donated them to the government.
The current route measures 2.5 miles, running from 77th Street and Central Park West to the Macy’s Store at 34th Street at Broadway. The parade has traveled this path since 1945; before that, it ran from 145th Street and Convent Avenue to Herald Square, a distance of more than 5 miles.
Macy’s Great American Marching Band; photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc
More than 8,000 participants, including celebrities, Broadway performers, marching bands, dancers, Macy’s colleagues, are expected to attend this year’s parade.
Roughly 3.5 million attend each year. During the inaugural parade on Nov. 27, 1924, just over 250,000 people attended.
Today, an incredible 50 million people tune in to the television broadcast of the parade, making it one of the most-watched events in the country.
Sixteen giant character balloons will be featured this year, with 40 novelty balloons, balloon-based vehicles balloonicle, and balloonheads. On Thursday, more than 1,600 handlers will corral the balloons will be on hand, or about 90 per giant balloon.
Yayoi Kusama’s “Love Flies Up to the Sky” balloon; Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy’s Inc.
Look out for 5 new balloons: Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon, Smokey Bear by USDA Forest Service, and Love Flies Up to the Sky by Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s colorful, dotted balloon falls under Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery series, which has featured balloons designed by world-renowned artists since 2005.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid takes the title for the tallest balloon at 62 feet, with Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger the longest at 77 feet, and Jett by Super Wings the widest balloon, at 39 feet.
Santa Claus closes out the event; photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc
And don’t forget about the floats; there will be 26 festive ones this year. You won’t want to miss the largest float: a 60-foot long, 3.5 stories tall Santa’s sleigh. Santa Claus has played a role in the parade since the very first one in 1924 which was designed as a celebration of Christmas and a way to welcome St. Nick to New York. Santa has served as the parade’s exciting finale every year except 1933 when he led the procession instead.
Prepare to be entertained! Roughly 2,793 marching band members will be bringing the beat, along with 600 cheerleaders and 600 dancers from across the U.S.
Additional entertainers include the Radio City Rockettes, 1,000 clowns, with 22 of them on stilts, and performances by artists from 4 Broadway musicals.
Elf on the Shelf; photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc
Each year, the parade takes an incredible amount of labor from a team of painters, carpenters, engineers, costume designers, and electricians. Macy’s estimates the team puts in at least 50,000 hours of work.
Although you can’t put a price on tradition, the total costs for the parade have been estimated to be between $11.6 million and $13.4 million, with the giant balloons costing at least $510,000 each just to inflate. It takes 18 months to plan.
The 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28 and runs until noon.
- 10 things you didn’t know about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Love Flies Up to the Sky’ balloon to join Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- The history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a grand NYC tradition