The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has sparked joy for nearly a century, serving as the perfect accompaniment to a holiday gathering. This year, the festivities kick off at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, and will air live on NBC and Peacock. The historic event has something for everyone, including larger-than-life balloons, majestic floats, cheery marching bands, celebrity performances, and the famous Radio City Rockettes.
Now one of New York City’s most treasured traditions, the first parade occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 1924. Despite the date, because it was intended to showcase the opening of the store’s flagship location and ramp up holiday season shopping, it was initially called the “Christmas Parade.” At that time, Macy’s Manhattan Herald Square location, with its 1 million square feet of retail space, was known as the “World’s Largest Store,” according to History.com. Much like today, the first parade was quite a spectacle, featuring “elephants and other animals from the Central Park Zoo,” per Country Living.
Although Macy’s wasn’t the first to host a corporate-sponsored parade, it was the first parade of its kind in New York City. Before that, the city’s only Thanksgiving parade had involved children costumed as “ragamuffins” in face paint and tattered clothes who knocked on doors asking, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” and collecting small treats. Except for a three-year hiatus during WWII, the “marathon of mirth,” as it was initially advertised, has taken place every year for the past nine decades.
This year, the celebrations will feature familiar favorites and some new attractions. There will be 25 balloons and 31 floats, including four brand-new ones — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem by Paramount and Nickelodeon; Palace Of Sweets by Brach’s; Igniting Memories by Solo Stove; and The Deliciously Delectable World of Wonka by Warner Bros. Pictures.
A whopping 29 clown crews will entertain crowds, as well as 11 marching bands, and performers from Broadway shows like Back to the Future: The Musical, How To Dance In Ohio, and Spamalot. The lineup also includes performances from The Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, Big Apple Circus, and Phantom Limb Company.
Also on the books are celebrity performances and appearances from the likes of Cher; David Foster and Katharine McPhee; Brandy; Chicago; En Vogue; Pentatonix; Jon Batiste; the Muppets of Sesame Street, The Radio City Rockettes; and more
For those who wish to see the parade in person, the route includes 2.5 miles of public viewing from the Upper West Side to Midtown, beginning at Central Park West. Other public viewing spots include Central Park South and 6th Avenue — according to the website, some of the best views are from West 59th to West 38th Streets.
Across the country, other notable parades are also taking place on Thanksgiving Day, including the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade and America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, the latter of which also began in 1924.
The 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.