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First the Parade, Then Black Friday

Originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, in 1920 first generation immigrant employees welcomed Santa Claus to Herald Square and enthroned him on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance. Over a quarter of a million people attended and the parade became an annual event. In 1924 the parade was rebranded the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and first featured animals from the Central Park Zoo.
The first balloon was “Felix the Cat” in 1927. Felix clawed some telephone wires and promptly caught fire. Cats have evidently been problematic for the parade. In 1997, high winds pushed the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost and the falling debris struck a parade-goer, fracturing her skull and left her in a coma for a month. Size rules were implemented the following year.

During World War II, due to rubber and helium shortages, the balloons were deflated and donated to the US government for scrap rubber.

In 1968 the Macy’s creative team added parade floats to the event. As large as 40 feet by 28 feet, all floats fold into a 12-foot by 8-foot box in order to go through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Commencing in 1996 Macy’s allowed fans to view the balloons being inflated. This is now an annual event.

More than 3.5 million people watch the Thanksgiving Day parade, in person, with 50 million joining by television and social media.

David J. Katz
November 25, 2014
New York City

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