History of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: 5 fun facts
But this year, New York officials can’t allow the millions who traditionally line the Manhattan parade route to gather. Instead, the parade will be held in a relatively small area near Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square and limited only to participants.
Meanwhile, let’s look back at five historical facts about the parade that no pandemic can change and at a bunch of pictures and video (above) from parades past:
1. It was originally a Christmas parade
The original store was about 20 blocks south on Sixth Avenue near 14th Street. Macy’s has been at its current flagship location, at Broadway and 34th Street, since 1902. Continuing expansion made the location what Macy’s called the “world’s largest store,” an entire city block with more than 1 million square feet of retail space.
In celebration, employees organized a Christmas parade in 1924 featuring “floats, bands, animals from the zoo and 10,000 onlookers,” according to a Macy’s history page. It also started way up at 145th Street. The parade concluded with Santa Claus and the unveiling of the store’s Christmas windows. Three years later, the Christmas Parade was renamed the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2. The parade was first broadcast on the radio
You had to use your imagination when the first broadcasts of the parade took place in 1932; they were on the radio. The parade was first televised in 1946 in New York and then nationally on NBC the next year.
3. The balloons have been around almost since the beginning
One tradition didn’t last long. The balloons were originally allowed to float away, and those who found them got a gift certificate from Macy’s.
4. The route has changed over time
For years, the parade’s Midtown route went right down Broadway, Manhattan’s spine. But in 2009, the route was moved to Seventh Avenue because of new pedestrian plazas along Broadway. It was changed to Sixth Avenue in 2011. Given the parade’s draw as a tourist attraction, this did not go over well with some folks.
For 2019, the route started at 77th Street and Central Park West, where it took a left turn at 59th Street. It continued to ride past Central Park until reached Sixth Avenue. From there, it will headed down straight down to 34th Street, where it hung a right and end at the flagship store.
And because of the pandemic, 2020 will see the very shortened only-for-TV route near the flagship store.
5. The parade has seen other obstacles
In 1957, a wet day got wetter for people near a Popeye balloon: The character’s hat filled with water and drenched parade watchers. The same thing happened in 1962 with a Donald Duck hat.
Superman once lost his arm to tree branches.
CNN’s Forrest Brown contributed 2020 information to this article.