Talking Turkey: Macy's 88th Thanksgiving Day Parade

28 November 2014
Read Time: 2.6 mins

For those of us that hail from the US, this fourth Thursday of November means one thing: Thanksgiving. It's a time to give thanks and observe our very favourite holiday traditions. From family, food, fun and more food, everyone celebrates in their own way; however, there is one tradition that millions of Americans share and that's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2014 marks the 88th running of this holiday spectacle, making it the second oldest Thanksgiving Parade in the US. More than 3.5 million people are expected to line the parade route in New York to see the festivities in person and a further 50 million will watch it from home. With a full slate of top performers, Broadway songs and the addition of six new balloons, this year promises to be as grand as ever, but first, a little history...

 Santa rings in the holiday season (image: Macy's, Inc)

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A Tradition Is Born

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This Thanksgiving event debuted in 1924 as the Macy's Christmas Parade. It was conceived by a group of Macy's employees, who decked out in colourful costumes and marched the then nine kilometre route to Herald Square with a menagerie of animals on loan from Central Park Zoo.

Santa carried up the rear of the line-up, entering Herald Square last to ring in the holiday season. This tradition has been observed every year since, excluding 1933 when Santa led the parade into Herald Square. An instant hit, the parade has taken place every Thanksgiving with the exception of 1942 to 1944. It made its on-screen debut in 1947 in the Miracle on 34th Street, which was followed up with its national television debut in 1948.

 Say hello to Snoopy (image: Macy's, Inc)

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Up, Up And Away

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In 1927, the live animals were replaced with the parade's signature giant character balloons. The first characters to grace the route included Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant and Toy Soldier. Handlers would purposely release the balloons so they could gently float across the skyline for a few days as they slowly lost their helium. Return address labels were stitched into the balloons.

Since the introduction of these mega balloons, many characters have hovered over the streets of New York. This includes such names as Mickey Mouse, Popeye and Harold the Clown. Though, it's Snoopy that holds the honour of being the longest running balloon after appearing in 33 parades. Over the years, the parade expanded to include smaller novelty balloons, 'Falloons' (float balloons), 'Balloonicles' (balloon vehicles) and 'Trycaloons' (tricycle balloons).

 Ladies and gentlemen, the Great American Marching Band (image: Macy's, Inc)

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Top Notch Performances

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The balloons tend to steal the show, but the parade also plays host to a line-up of impressive floats, performers and special guests. Staple acts such as the Rockettes have high kicked their way through pre-parade celebrations since the beginning, while the more recent additions of Broadway cast members (1977) and the day's top pop performers (2003) have added new elements to the entertainment.

High school and college marching bands come from around the country to participate, many of whom put on live performances in front of the Macy's flagship store on Broadway and 34th. The route is also filled with clowns, cheerleaders and dancers that march along with the floats.

 Jake and Finn make an appearance (image: Macy's, Inc)

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For the 88th Parade

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2014 will see 16 character balloons along with 33 novelty balloons,' balloonicles', 'balloonheads' and 'trycaloons'. There will be 27 floats, 12 marching bands, 1,300 cheerleaders and dancers and 1,000 clowns.

In line with the times, the parade will feature a few new interactive features as well, including the Confetti Carpet, which provides a social media peek at celebrities behind the scenes. The Cracker Jack Popcorn float will be rigged with live cameras broadcasting parade footage on its own jumbotron, and the New York Daily News float has cameras capturing 360 degree panoramic images along the route.

Of course, a few new balloons are expected to make an appearance, including new versions of the Pikachu and Pillsbury Doughboy balloons. 2014 will also see the debut of the following four characters:

 Skylanders Eruptor
16-metres long, 11-metres wide and 11-metres tall
This balloon required more than 40 gallons of paint and five barrels of glitter.

 

 Thomas the Tank Engine
15-metres long, 7-metres wide and 14-metres tall
Thomas features the largest amount of helium in the parade this year and used the most fabric ever to design one character.

 

 Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger
23-metres long, 8-metres wide and 17-metres tall
The Red Power Ranger is as tall as a five story building, making it one of the tallest in the parade this year.

 

 Paddington
16-metres long, 11-metres wide and 18-metres tall
The suitcase featured on this balloon is equivalent to the door of a standard two car garage.

 

 

Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.