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Where the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Got Its Start

POSTED: Thursday, November 27, 2008 - 8:45am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 11:59am

"In 1924, the first parade consisted of 8 floats, a couple bands, a group of dancing girls, sales associates in costumes", says Macy's historian Robert Rutan.

It was the sales associates that dreamed up and made the parade, but the day after, the store ran a newspaper ad thanking the 10,000 New Yorkers who came out to watch.

Rutan said, "They promised, for all time, moving forward, that Macy's would have a Thanksgiving Day parade."

82 parades later, it's bigger than ever, with 28 floats, 50 balloons, thousands of participants and millions of viewers.

The balloons are still the big attraction, but they didn't come into play until 1927, when 4 flew 5th avenue, led by Felix the cat. This year, we say hello to 3 new friends.

"People say he's blue, but he's going to be happy with a big smile for Thanksgiving Day!" says John Piper, with Macy's Studio.

Although the first parade was in 1924, there were 3 years during World War II when there was no parade at all. Macy's donated the rubber to the effort, making the Thanksgiving Day parade important not just to New York, but to the world.

John Piper said, "The balloons wrote a letter to the people of America to say, it wouldn't be the best idea to have people congregated in that area and they would have to follow the rules, and support our troops."

As Macy's celebrates its 150th year, they've already settled on their birthday wishes for the parade.

"We just hope it's still as glorious and fantastic 150 years from now as it is now," said Robin Hall, the parade director.

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