History of the Macy’s Day Parade

How can a business become an inextricable part of the traditional American family’s conception of the holidays? Ask Mr. Macy.

Parade Beginnings

The first ever Macys Parade took place in 1924, on Christmas Day, and was initially intended to draw attention to the original Macy’s department store in midtown Manhattan. Parade performers were actually mainly just Macy’s store employees dressed as your traditional clowns, cowboys, and anything else that made up the stuff of average kids’ dreams in 1920’s America. These employees, together with “exotic” animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, walked six miles from nearby Herald Square (34th street) all the way uptown to Harlem (116th street and up).

So how did this unique and seemingly ramshackle event take its now 92-year hold on the American public’s imagination? We like to call it innovation and stick-to-itiveness. While Americans had seen parade floats before in local parades for high school events, veterans’ events and more, parade balloons were not to be ignored. By 1927 Macy’s had acquired its very first giant balloon to be featured in the parade: Felix the Cat. Felix was a beloved cartoon character, drawing awe and all-ages reverence to the parade, then held on Thanksgiving (as it is now). While the event was certainly not televised then, the newspaper coverage was widespread, and the event was narrated on the radio for the first time in 1933.

The Parade Spreads

The fact that the majesty of the Macy’s parade continued all throughout the Great Depression, (although not for a few years during World War Two) cemented the idea of the Macy’s Day Parade into the public reverence and imagination. Fast-forward to 1934 when the first Mickey Mouse balloon was featured, and American hearts were captured forever.

When the parade first began being televised by NBC in 1939, the parade viewership skyrocketed from the original 250,000 people who were in attendance at the first parade in NYC, to the entire “TV Land” audience across America. Today, more than 50 million people worldwide tune in to watch the parade on Thanksgiving Day, in addition to the roughly 3.5 million people per year who still attend the parade in person.

You can find the present-day Macy’s Day Parade lineup [here](http://www.nyctourist.com/macys_news_lineup.htm).