There are many famous traditions synonymous with New York City, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is at the top of that list. The first parade marched down Broadway in the winter of 1924, and in the years since, it’s grown into an event with more than 3.5 million spectators. The parade is also televised on both NBC and CBS and boasts a whopping 50 million viewers. And like any long-standing NYC institutions, the history behind the festivities and larger-than-life balloons is certainly interesting.
As part of a strategy to shore up its flagging retail business, Macy’s is considering providing New York City with more public park space right on the rooftop of its Herald Square flagship store, the New York Post reports. Doug Sesler, EVP of Real Estate for the chain, said in an investor presentation Tuesday that the store was “Exploring ways to activate upper levels (e.g.rooftop) and overall property while retaining Macy’s store and presence.” To attract shoppers and add more excitement to the shopping experience, Macy’s execs are looking at plans to develop the rooftop of the 2.2 million square-foot 34th Street store, including restaurants, green space, trees and benches.
Tishman Speyer has released plans for the 422 Fulton Street Macy’s renovation that will turn a new 10-story space above the department store into a 620,000 square foot creative office hub called The Wheeler. Reflecting a recent trend in snazzy work spaces that attract TAMI (technology, advertising, media and information) clients, the space will comprise “620,000 square feet of opportunity in the center of downtown Brooklyn,” according to the developer. On offer will be the largest floor plates in Brooklyn with 15+ foot ceilings that “leave plenty of room for huge ideas,” and a sprawling rooftop terrace, part of an acre of outdoor space that “provides fresh air for fresher thinking.” There will also be 130 subterranean bike stations with lockers and showers for workers who bike to work.
Felix the Cat 1927 – first balloon in Macy’s Parade
In 1927, three years after its first incarnation, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade replaced its live animals with balloons designed by marionette maker Anthony Frederick Sarg and made by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (more on that here). The first such animal-shaped balloon was Felix the Cat, and after a nearly 90-year hiatus, the Times reports that he’s returning to the parade this year.
When America celebrates her 240th birthday on Monday, Gary Souza will be marking the occasion in a very big way. As a fireworks designer for Pyro Spectaculars, he is responsible for creating and overseeing the wondrous fireworks that make the nation ooh and aah during Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. This year’s show will be Macy’s 40th annual production, a huge milestone for the department store, and will take place over the East River in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
Pyro Spectaculars is a multigenerational family business begun by Manuel de Sousa after he immigrated from Portugal to the San Francisco area in the early 1900s. Over the years, the business has grown tremendously from creating small fireworks displays to a company that now spans five generations and is responsible for providing fireworks for some of the biggest names in the sports and entertainment industries, including the Winter and Summer Olympics, Super Bowls, Disney, and at concerts for icons such as the Rolling Stones. When it comes to Macy’s, Pyro Spectaculars has a 35-year collaboration with the store that has propelled the fireworks company to develop technology that allows for safer, more elaborate firework creations to come to life.
6sqft recently spoke with Gary to learn about the magnificence of fireworks, what it takes to produce the Macy’s show, and some of the exciting new elements at this year’s display.
Image via Library of Congress
Herald Square is today known for many things. There’s the flagship Macy’s department store and the pedestrianized part of Broadway that extends to Times Square. And it serves as an epicenter of the retail corridor that now runs from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue. Some may remember the song, “Give My Regards to Broadway,” from the George M. Cohan musical “Little Johnny Jones”with the iconic line, “Remember me to Herald Square.” But written in 1904, “Give My Regards to Broadway” references a very different Herald Square than the one we’re familiar with today.
In America, seasonal change is ushered in by Macy’s and its productions, from the holiday season with the Thanksgiving Day Parade to summer with fireworks for America’s birthday. When it comes to welcoming spring, the department store puts on its annual Flower Show, a longstanding tradition that began 65 year ago and is now marking its 42nd year at the company’s Herald Square location.
This year’s show, America the Beautiful, celebrates the wonders of the nation’s natural world at five stores around the country (NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco). For New Yorkers who visit the show, it’s a chance to step out of the hustle and bustle and immerse themselves in gardens representing various regions of the United States. The executive producer behind the show is Mike Gansmoe, who is responsible for overseeing everything from conception to putting that last flower in place during overnight setups. 6sqft recently spoke with Mike to find out what’s blooming at this year’s show.
- Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Macy’s in 1948. [Messy Nessy]
- A new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, Crossing Brooklyn, will showcase work from 35 artists and collectives from the borough. [Hyper Allergic]
- The city may need to hire a proofreader… a new Brooklyn street sign misspelled Remsen Street. [Daily News]
- Hershey’s is creating a 3D chocolate printer. [Business Insider]
- Here’s 21 great historical details from New York City’s most famous Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. [Bowery Boys]
Images: Macy’s via LIFE (L); 3D-printed Hershey’s Kiss via Hershey’s (R)
New Yorker Spotlight: Behind the Magic of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Creative Director Wesley Whatley, Wed, November 26, 2014
For one day each year, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade transforms the streets of New York City into the ultimate stage for marching bands, dancers, floats, and of course, giant balloons. As we can all imagine, putting on a parade of this magnitude is no small task. And that’s where Wesley Whatley, the Parade’s creative director, comes in.
Wesley is responsible for overseeing, developing and bringing the creative side of the event to life. His role requires vision, organization and a deep understanding of the parade’s history and its importance to both the city and America. Along with his team, he ensures it’s a magical event for spectators and television viewers.
In anticipation of tomorrow’s parade, we spoke with Wesley about selecting marching bands and performers, the logistics of organizing such a large event, and, on a personal note, what parades mean to him.