It began in 1924 when Macy’s employees came together to celebrate the Christmas holiday. In recent years, it’s ballooned into something gargantuan. But in 2020, the parade will be televised only, in the first-ever pandemic parade.

That means no live audience. Fewer participants. And a shorter route.

But it doesn’t diminish the pageantry of what many Americans think of as a Thanksgiving Day tradition: watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“For New Yorkers who typically see it live and in person, the change for them is that they are going to experience it the same way the rest of the country experiences it,” Susan Tercero, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, told The Asbury Park Press newspaper. “But I think for the rest of the country, it’s not going to be too different.

“They’re still going to see the balloons,” she continued. “They’re still going to see the floats. They’re still going to see Santa and Broadway and all of these elements that they’re used to seeing every single year. They might have some differences in that we’re going to see some social distancing. We’re going to have masks, things like that. But it’s still going to be the parade they know and love.”

Whether it’s for the floats, the music, or the 1,000 clowns, Americans find the parade truly fascinating. But just what goes into producing the event under normal circumstances?

Some crazy parade numbers to feast on this Thanksgiving Day:

  • The first parade was held on November 27, 1924, and more than 250,000 people attended!
  • The current route of the parade, in miles, from 77th Street and Central Park West to the Macy’s Store at 34th Street and Broadway is 2.5 miles!
  • The parade has only been canceled 3 times, all as a result of World War II in 1942, 1943, and 1944.
  • Three-and-a-half-million people, attend the parade each year to watch in person.
  • In 1989, 4.7 inches of rain downpoured on the people and the parade.
  • To produce the once-a-year Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it costs an estimated 12 million dollars.
  • Ronald McDonald has appeared as a float 17 times, sporting size 200 XXXXXXXL-wide shoes!
Ronald McDonald Balloon

Editorial credit: Scott Cornell /

  • It takes an 18-month timeframe to plan the event!
  • The coldest-ever parade was held in 2018 at a frigid 19 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Snoopy has made 40 parade appearances—the most of any balloon character!
Snoopy Parade Balloon

Editorial credit: NYC Russ /

  • The first Mickey Mouse balloon, which debuted in 1934, was 40 feet tall.
  • Fifty million people tune in to the televised broadcast of the parade every year.
  • It takes 90 minutes to inflate just one of the parade balloons.
Olaf Balloon Inflation

Olaf the Snowman 2018 Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation. Takes place the day before the parade on 77th and 81st streets on either side of the American Museum of Natural History. || CC: Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons

  • It’s been 96 years since the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
  • To volunteer, participants must weigh at least 120 pounds!
  • Each float uses a whopping 200 pounds of glitter.
  • There are over 300 wardrobe and make-up artists hired for the event, as well as over 600 performing cheerleaders and dancers!
  • It takes 750 pounds of gas to inflate just one balloon.
  • In order to corral the 50+ giant balloons throughout the parade route, 1,600 handlers are needed to walk along with them!
Elf on the shelf balloon

Elf on the Shelf and balloon handlers || CC: Charley Lhasa from New York City via Wikimedia Commons

  • The first character balloons debuted in 1927 and included a 60-foot-long dinosaur and a 25-foot-long dachshund.
  • The iconic Rockettes made their first appearance in 1957.
  • On a typical parade year, 2,800 marching band members from all over the country perform throughout the parade.
  • The parade is host to over 8,000 participants, including celebrities, Broadway performers, marching band members, dancers, and Macy’s employees.
  • Macy’s employees estimate that they work a collective 50,000 hours each year to make this historical event come to life!

By Ryan Clark, contributor for and host of Ripley’s Believe It or Notcast


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