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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Celebrates its 90th Anniversary

November 14, 2016 | Events
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90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Nothing marks the start of the holiday season in the U.S. with greater fanfare and delight than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which takes place annually on Thanksgiving Day in Manhattan, New York. This year, the Parade celebrates its 90th anniversary on Thursday, November 24, 2016, and the march of magic will be more dazzling than ever before. The Parade will feature “amazing new and commemorative elements that will continue our storied legacy of unparalleled holiday entertainment,” says Amy Kule, executive producer of the Parade.

Millions of fans will gather to watch the 90th edition of the Parade both in person and on TV—the famed spectacle’s line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 27 novelty/ornament balloons, balloonicles and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 16 marching bands and performance groups.

History of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade

Originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, the parade tradition was started in 1924 by Macy’s employees who wanted to celebrate the holiday season with a grand pageant comparable to grand European carnivals and festivals. The first Parade featured fanciful floats, employee marching bands, clown groups and live animals from the Central Park Zoo. The event was such a resounding success that it became an annual event from that point forward.

While the Parade has evolved over time, it has always incorporated Macy’s own employee volunteers, talented marching bands and dazzling floats. In 1924, the Parade debuted four giant balloons filled with air and carried on sticks, including the first-ever, character-based balloon featuring the likeness of animated film star, Felix the Cat. The following year, helium was added to the inflatables and ever since, high-flying artworks that showcase the world’s most beloved characters have served as a central component of the Parade spectacle. As the Parade continued to grow and expand, it became a fixture of the holiday season known for bringing families together in joyful celebration. For more on the fascinating history of the parade, check out http://social.macys.com/parade/.

The 2016 Parade Route

The 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9 a.m. at 77th Street andCentral Park West. The procession will march to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South and proceed down 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas to 34th Street. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square.

The Parade Lineup

This year’s lineup is more amazing than ever: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the Muppets will kick off the celebration and many of the nation’s top performers and sports stars will engage fans along the route. They include: Kelsea Ballerini; Tony Bennett; Aloe Blacc; Chloe x Halle; Easton Corbin; Daya; De La Soul; Diamante Eléctrico; Brett Eldredge; Fitz & the Tantrums; Christopher Jackson; Johnnyswim; Sandra Lee; Lunchmoney Lewis; Maddie & Tae; Sarah McLachlan; NHL legends Adam Gravesand Eric Lindros; Ben Rector; Regina Spektor; the cast of Sesame Street; Sprout’s Chica; Timeflies; U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists Michelle Carter, Laurie Hernandez and Claressa Shields; U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalists Mikey Brannigan, Gianfranco Iannotta; Grace VanderWaal; and Jacob Whitesides.

Thomas the Tank Engine Balloon at the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Balloons at the 90th Thanksgiving Day Parade

The balloon line up will include Peanuts blockhead Charlie Brown, a colorful and whimsical Diary of A Wimpy Kid®, as well as the stars of DreamWorks’ Trolls in a multi-character balloon. The Parade’s first balloon star Felix the Cat will return as DreamWorks Animation’s version. This Felix will make his way down the route just as he first appeared in 1927—carried on sticks.

Felix the Cat Ballon at the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The returning balloons include: Angry Birds’ Red; Sinclair Oil’s Dino™; The Elf on the Shelf®; Hello Kitty®; Ice Age’s Scrat and his Acorn; PADDINGTON™; Pikachu™; Pillsbury™ Doughboy™; Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; Skylanders® Eruptor; SpongeBob SquarePants; and Thomas the Tank Engine®. The returning balloonicles (a Macy’s Parade hybrid of cold-air balloon and vehicle) include the The Aflac Duck.

Pre-Parade Balloon Inflation Event

Balloon Inflation will take place on the day before Thanksgiving. The public is invited to watch the Macy's Giant Balloon Inflation on Wednesday, November 23rd, from 3 pm to 10 pm. Enter the special balloon inflation areas surrounding the Museum of Natural History at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue.

Hello Kitty At Macy's Giant Balloon Inflation

This Year’s Floats

Four new floats will debut this year and many that have appeared in past parades will return. The new floats: The Aloha Spirit by King’s Hawaiian®, Building A Better World by Girl Scouts of the USA, Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill®, and Fun House by Krazy Glue®.  The returning floats: 1-2-3 Sesame Street; At the Ball Game (Cracker Jack®); Big Apple (New York Daily News); Big City Cheer! (Spirit of America Productions); China’s Chengdu – Home of the Giant Panda (Sino-American Friendship Association); The Colonel’s Road Trip to NYC (Kentucky Fried Chicken); The Cranberry Cooperative (Ocean Spray®); Discover Adventure! (Build-A-Bear®); Free to Play (Sprout®); Frozen Fall Fun (Discover®); Girl-Powered Spinning Machine (GoldieBlox®); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown (Hallmark Channel); It’s All Rock & Roll (Gibson Brands®); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride (South Dakota Department of Tourism); On The Roll Again (Homewood Suites by Hilton®); Santa’s Sleigh; Snoopy’s Doghouse (Peanuts Worldwide); Stirrin’ Up Sweet Sensations (Domino® Sugar); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon); Tom Turkey; Treasure Hunt (Pirate’s Booty®); and Winter Wonderland In Central Park (Delta Air Lines).

Tom Turkey Float at the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Marching Bands

Marching bands are a central piece of the Parade and deliver bringing a hefty dose of hometown pride as well as a holiday beat to the Big Apple’s streets. Twelve performance ensembles will march this year. They include: Cary Senior High School (Cary, NC); Grain Valley High School (Grain Valley, Missouri); Greendale High School (Greendale, WI); Harrison High School (Kennesaw, GA); Hendrickson High School (Pflugerville, TX); Joe E. Newsome High School (Lithia, FL); Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), led by 11-year-old junior drum major from Shaw University Timmy Richardson; Na Koa Ali`l Hawaii All-State Marching Band (Hawaii); NYPD Marching Band (New York, ); Prospect High School (Prospect, IL); The United States Military Academy Band (West Point); and The West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band (Morgantown, WV). A variety of local performance groups from all over the country will join them.

Macy's Marching Band at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Parade Shop

Select Macy’s stores and macys.com are providing an opportunity to bring the pageantry home with fun and exciting parade-related merchandise, including a spectacular photography retrospective book “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A New York City Tradition” (Rizzoli New York), a special tote, mug, ornaments, toys and holiday- and parade-themed pajama sets for the whole family—and who doesn’t love to watch the Parade in their pajamas? 

Macy’s Parade Time Traveler App

The Macy’s Parade Time Traveler app, available for free on the iTunes® App Store or from Google Play, gives fans an opportunity to interact with history as they experience the Parade from three different eras. With the app, fans can use their smartphone’s camera to transport themselves to Parades from the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s in amazing live-action virtual reality. In addition, the app allows fans to take a selfie in the past, and create their own Parade by collecting historic, virtual balloons at Macy’s stores across the country.

In addition to the time-traveling app, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stickers app, available for free today from the iTunes App Store or from Google Play, or through messaging platforms including Tango, Paltalk® and Blackberry® Messenger, can add a dose of Parade whimsy to text messages this holiday season.

Television Special Event

Millions of families nationwide will watch The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV as it is broadcast nationally on NBC. This year, the TODAY Show’s Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker will host the three-hour broadcast from 9 a.m. – noon (in all time zones). In addition, Telemundo will simulcast the Parade in Spanish and the event will be hosted by stars Jessica Carrillo and Carlos Ponce. The broadcast will include the world-famous Radio City Rockettes® as well as a variety of Broadway performers.

To learn more about the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the amazing ways in which the Parade has evolved from the 1920s through the 2000s, check out the dedicated interactive parade website. You can also call the Parade hotline at 212-494-4495 for more information.


About the Author

Meet Keri Hanson

Wine. Food. Travel. Repeat.