The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an American institution since 1924 when it humbly began as a small Christmas parade presented by Macy's store employees. Time magazine reports it wasn't until 1927 that parade marchers added the splendor of elaborate floats and larger-than-life character balloons to dazzle parade spectators.
By 1933 there were more than an estimated one million people lining the parade route each year and soon after, the parade was ceremoniously broadcast on television each year.
In the course of the 84 times the parade has been held, it has featured its skyscraper-sized balloons as its signature showpiece for all but the first three years of the parade's history.
As the interests and tastes of children and teens have evolved over the years, as well as changes in corporate sponsors, balloon designs have come and go. Here's a look at some of the most popular Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade character balloons to grace the route which dependably ends at 7th Avenue and 34th Street every Thanksgiving Day in New York City.
Snoopy has been a comedic staple for young and old to enjoy since 1968. Charlie Brown's beagle has shown up as a World War I flying ace soaring through the crowd while looking to take down the Red Baron. Snoopy has appeared more often than any other character in the parade's history, according to the History Channel.
Kermit the Frog
The late Jim Henson's signature Muppet first graced the parade route in 1977 and has been a favorite for more than 20 years. When Kermit accidentally popped in 1991, it had been originally been decided he would be retired. However due to fan intercession, he was revived 11 years later and has been a parade mainstay ever since. Kermit's handlers can be seen wearing green outfits much like the big guy as they steadily guide him down Central Park West.
Superman has been a reliable fixture in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade since the 1940s. A natural fit as the "Man of Steel" is often larger than life, Superman originally stood upright during his initial parade debut. However when he opted for his flying position, he gained long-term notoriety as one of the largest character balloons to ever to grace the streets of New York City.
Garfield, the plump lasagna-loving tabby cat, has always been a popular character balloon with kids at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Jim Davis' feisty feline has entertained children with comic strips and books since 1984. A modern-day audience now enjoys Garfield's comedic antics with the animated television series, "The Garfield Show" on Cartoon Network.
The Mickey Mouse character balloon is an ever-popular addition to the parade and has been flying since 1934. After three different balloon designs and as with his cartoon character counterpart, he remains a family favorite even after all of these years. Youngsters will recognize Mickey's modern-day design from Playhouse Disney's "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."
Honorable mention goes to the likes of Smokey the Bear, Underdog, Linus, and Bullwinkle for their honorable parade service as these beloved character balloons are now retired from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
For a more nostalgic look at the world's most famous parade, the New York Daily News features a photographic retrospective. Many notable balloons no longer fly but are a cherished part of the parade's distinguished history, including Uncle Sam, the Tin Man, and Eddie Cantor.
For those not fortunate enough to travel to NYC to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, CBS will begin its live broadcast of the festivities beginning at 9 a.m. ET Nov. 25. The parade will also air an hour later on NBC at 10 a.m. ET Thanksgiving Day.
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- Mickey Mouse
- Jim Davis
- Kermit the Frog
- the Red Baron
- flying ace