Surrounded by friends and family? Watching the football game? People stuffing the turkey then stuffing their mouths? Check, check, and check. But wait…something is missing: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade [MTDP]. If five people were asked what Thanksgiving means to them, in return there would be five diverse answers because each person incorporates their own traditions into the celebration of the holiday. Thanksgiving is a forever changing holiday, but in 1924 came one addition—in the form of a parade—to the celebration, and this caused the fourth Thursday of November to never be the same.
Millions of people did not always huddle close together in the cold November weather to watch MTDP. The year was 1924, the streets of New York City were even more crowded than usual, and a parade was going on. The first parade consisted of four bands, three floats, Central Park Zoo animals, and Macy’s employees marching towards the department store’s residency on 34th Street.
In 1927, the MTDP committee added the element into the parade for which it is most commonly associated with: balloons. They were not just any old balloons, but giant balloons depicting famous characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, and Spider-Man. While the committee had thought, they inadvertently forgot to think of a way to deflate the helium-filled characters. Their solution: release the balloons and when they popped, ask that people return captured balloons to Macy’s and individuals would be awarded 50 dollars. A few years later though, Macy’s put a stop to this incentive after there were two separate incidents of two pilots nearly crashing their planes in attempts to capture lost balloons.
All across America, the holiday entails preparing for the impending feast while watching the parade. The parade however has evolved throughout time. The first Mickey Mouse balloon debuted in 1934 while Donald Duck debuted in 1962. Today, about two to three thousand volunteers are needed to handle the balloons, which results to about 50 volunteers needed to handle each balloon including a police officer alongside each balloon. When Mia Sanders, freshman English major, was relayed these numbers, she was shocked, “I never really paid attention to all the hard work that went into the parade, I just watched the performers.” While Sanders was distracted by the entertainment of the MTDP, Adam Johnson, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, admires the dedication to putting on something that millions of people will watch on an important holiday. “The workers and volunteers of the parade have families too. Instead of staying in their warm homes, they’d rather be a part of something big, and that’s great,” Johnson commented.
In 1948, the parade was broadcasted for the first time on network television. An estimated 14.2 percent of households in America tuned in to become a part of the parade, while today nearly 30 million people witness the one of a kind parade that is MTDP. Live Broadway and musical performances are other aspects of the MTDP. National Broadcast Company [NBC] has been the official television broadcaster of the parade since 1952. Commercial Broadcast Station [CBS] is not permitted to air live Broadway and music performances like NBC. Instead, CBS show pre-recorded performances along with the parade but because their coverage has been considered “unauthorized” they are not permitted to use the Macy’s name due to lack of an official license; therefore, their broadcast is called The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS.
The classic MTDP logo was last used in 2005, since then a new logo has been created every year. Traditions may change but they will never end. The MTDP has played a big part in some people’s Thanksgiving. “In my family, you wake up on Thanksgiving and immediately turn the parade on,” stated Jessica Sands, freshman education major, “It’s tradition, and without the [MTDP], it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.” This year will mark the 88th annual MTDP. Make sure to join the tradition and tune in November 27, 2014.