The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most anticipated things about Thanksgiving, aside from eating delicious turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. The first parade was held over 90 years ago in 1924. It has practically become synonymous with the American holiday.
The parade has a rich history that includes interesting and surprising behind-the-scenes stats and stories. After doing some research, here are all the juicy details that we couldn’t wait to share!
Little-Known Facts About the Parade’s Balloons
Parade-goers can expect to see giant versions of their favorite cartoons, TV characters, and superheroes. It’s hard to understand how massive these balloons truly are when you’re seeing them on television. Most balloons in the parade use between 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium. One cubic foot can lift .069 pounds. It means that the largest balloons have enough helium in them to lift four African elephants!
These balloons are filled up with massive amounts of helium an average of eight times before they’re retired. Even though the average life of a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is eight years, some have multiple lives. Snoopy, a fan favorite, has been introduced as a new balloon eight different times in the parade’s history including “Aviator Snoopy,” “Ice Skating Snoopy,” and “Astronaut Snoopy.”
Balloons weren’t always a major part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before 1927, live animals were the big attraction. Since the first in 1928, an average of two balloons is added to the parade lineup each year. Many of these made balloon history as the first of their kind.
In 1942, Macy’s canceled the parade for the first time. It was during World War II when rubber was in high demand. Instead, they donated the famous and beloved balloons to the military, providing them with 65 pounds of rubber.
Budgeting for the Parade
Since 1924, Macy’s has invested a lot of time, money, and thought to make the parade into the nationally televised event it is today. The average cost of filling every balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is $510,000. To give that number context, the average price of a Thanksgiving meal in 2017 was $49.12. That means the cost of filling the average parade balloon could feed more than 10,380 families on Turkey Day!
Historical Weather Data for Parade Day
With all of that money poured into the parade, the show must go on even if the weather is frightful. Fortunately, the Farmer’s Almanac says that there has only been one day in the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade where snow was falling in NYC.
Average temperatures on Thanksgiving Day in NYC have been as high as a pleasant 58-degrees Fahrenheit. However, there have been many cold days without snow, including two years with 28-degree temperatures. After standing outside for hours, parade-goers probably needed to thaw out.
High winds are a troublesome element that Mother Nature can throw at parade-goers or organizers. Winds have led to a few accidents in the years 1993, 1997, and 2005. It seems they don’t mix well with lampposts and balloons. Sonic the Hedgehog, the Cat in the Hat, and the M&M’s balloons have caused injuries after crashing into lights along the parade route. It’s a good thing that new rules were implemented to ensure everyone’s safety.
A Look at the Floats in the Parade
It’s true that the balloons and Broadway performers are a major attraction. However, many Americans tune in to catch a glimpse of the floats (and the performers that ride on top of them). Just like balloons, new floats are rapidly introduced to the parade each year. A whopping ten floats made their debut appearances in 2015.
Musicians, actors, and actresses often grace these floats. Surprisingly, males are much more likely to ride atop a float than females, 1.6 times more likely to be exact.
One of the most highly anticipated aspects of the parade is the last float where Santa Claus makes an appearance. That sparkle in his eye is enough to make all kids immediately start counting down the days until he makes his yearly delivery of presents to their homes. Maybe, if they haven’t done a lot of shouting and pouting, these Christmas-loving children will find some of the most popular gifts under their Christmas tree this year.