Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Brief History of 90 Years

TV
On the eve of the network’s telecast of the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NBC will celebrate the annual holiday extravaganza with a look back at America’s most beloved procession.

The hour-long primetime special will feature some of the most extraordinary elements from the nine decade history of the Parade.

Viewers will experience the evolution of the Parade, the process of building the dazzling balloons and floats, the craziest costumes, and the final preparations that go into creating this two-and-a-half-mile march through the streets of Manhattan. The show will also highlight the annual excitement of the bands and dancers from across the country as they are selected for the honor of representing their community in this event watched by millions. The pre-parade spectacular will air Wednesday, November 23 at 8:00 p.m.


The Main Event
More than 3.5 million people will be lining the streets of Manhattan and more than 50 million more will watch on television, with a host of giant character balloons, dazzling floats, the nation’s best marching bands and performance groups, celebrities, and the official entrance of the one-and-only Santa Claus.

Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker of NBC’s Today will host the broadcast. In addition, Telemundo will simulcast the parade in Spanish with the event hosted by stars Jessica Carrillo and Carlos Ponce.



Since its origin in 1924, the Macy’s Parade has marked the official start of the holiday season, introducing a cherished march of magic that has dazzled generations of fans. For the 90th edition, 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.

Let’s Have a Parade

For nine decades Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a march like no other by bringing generations an unrivaled procession filled with more than 8,000 volunteer participants dressed as clowns, strutting their stuff in a marching band or escorting the Parade’s signature giant inflatables and floats of fantasy into the hearts of millions.

Originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, the tradition was started by Macy’s employees who wanted to celebrate the holiday season with a grand pageant similar to the over-the-top carnivals and festivals of Europe. The first Parade featured fanciful floats, employee marching bands, clown groups and real animals from the Central Park Zoo. Stretching from Harlem at 145th Street and Convent Avenue down more than five miles to Macy’s Herald Square, the first event was such a success that it was deemed by Macy’s to be an annual event from there on forward. While many elements have grown and been adapted over time, the heart of the Parade has always involved Macy’s own employee volunteers, talented marching bands and dazzling floats – elements that have paved the way for imagination and grand spectacle.

One of those jaw-dropping additions came in 1927. Replacing the live animals, who some said scared children along the route, the Parade introduced its first inflatables, debuting four giant balloons filled with air and carried on sticks down the route. That inaugural balloon line-up included the first-ever character based balloon featuring the likeness of famed animated film star Felix the Cat. To make the balloons lighter than air, the following year helium was added, helping the giants float down the route.

Since its inception, the Parade has marched during tumultuous periods in our collective history. Only one event has ever caused the cancellation of the Parade and that was World War II. During a three-year period from 1941-43, the event was put on hold due to the rationing of supplies such as rubber and helium and a moratorium on large public gatherings. After its brief hiatus, the Parade returned and grew in worldwide fame becoming even more synonymous with the holiday season after its starring role in the 1947 film classic Miracle on 34th Street.

Icons Take Flight
The Parade’s signature giant character balloons have showcased the world’s most beloved cultural characters since the late 1920’s. Evolving from a simple paper sketch to giant wonders on Thanksgiving morning, the balloons are transformed by Macy’s “Balloonatics” into high flying art.

This year's balloon line-up will feature the return of the Parade’s first balloon star as DreamWorks Animation’s Felix the Cat. Designed and built using the same methods from the late 1920s, Felix will make his way down the route as he first appeared, carried on sticks, mimicking his debut appearance in 1927.

Drum roll, Please...

Marching bands are a central piece of the Thanksgiving delights, bringing national excitement and hometown pride to the streets of the Big Apple, not to mention the musical beat to the holiday revelry. Twelve performance ensembles will take up the call of the baton and march down the streets of Manhattan, including 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, NY), Prospect High School (Prospect, IL), the United States Military Academy Band (West Point) and the West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band (Morgantown, WV).

Specialty Parade entertainment always promises a unique, exciting, and sometimes humorous look at the nation’s finest performance groups. This year’s special groups include the high kicking Kilgore Rangerettes (Kilgore, TX), the dance stars of the world-renowned in-school arts education program, National Dance Institute (New York, NY), the Armenian folk dance group Sayat Nova Dance Company (Boston, MA) and the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees (Alameda, CA). Completing the performance groups are the Spirit of America Cheer and the Spirit of America Dance Stars, which both feature 550 of the nation’s best cheerleaders and most thrilling dancers.

The 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9:00 a.m. on NBC. (Story provided by NBC)