By Dave Caplan
On November 27th 1924 the first Macy’s then called “Christmas Parade” left Harlem and made its way downtown to Herald Square. Conceived by Macy’s employees, many of whom were immigrants, the parade was a celebration of the holiday season embedded in the festivals of their home countries.
400 employees marched downtown alongside camels, elephants, bands, balloons and beautiful floats. A quarter of a million people turned out to witness this spectacular event.
In 1927 giant balloons filled with helium were added and were a huge success. Felix the Cat, my personal favorite, the Dragon, the Elephant and the Toy Soldier were the first balloons to thrill the crowds. At the end of the parade the balloons were released and promptly exploded. In 1929 a valve was added to each balloon and a mixture of Helium and air and when they were released they could end up just about anywhere. So, the following year Macy’s put a return address on each balloon and a prize was rewarded to whoever returned it. This practice ended in 1933, in the interest of safety, after several close calls involving airplanes and tugboats who were racing to get the falling balloons.
From 1942 to 1944 the parade was cancelled due to World War Two because the balloons were donated to the US Government to cover the rubber shortage. Due to a Helium shortage in 1958 the balloons were carried down Broadway on cranes; Macy’s is the 2nd largest user of Helium in the world behind the US Government.
This year, when the parade makes it way down Central Park West on Thanksgiving Day, an exciting chilled crowd will feast their eyes on 15 giant character balloons, 12 Marching Bands, The Rockettes, hundreds of colorful clowns and one of a kind floats. 3.5 million watch in person and another 50 million sit back on their couches and watch on TV. It’s the one and only Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Last week’s trivia answer-Central Park
Last week’s mystery photo-Alexander Hamilton’s House
This week’s trivia question-What is Rikers Island?