Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The History Behind the Iconic Event

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The History Behind the Iconic Event

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will make its way down the streets of New York City on November 23rd, with millions tuning in to watch. Here are a few details about the history of the iconic event.

The original store was situated approximately 20 blocks south on Sixth Avenue near 14th Street. Macy’s has maintained its flagship position at its current location, Broadway and 34th Street, since 1902.

Through continuous expansion, this location has transformed into what Macy’s proudly refers to as the “world’s largest store.” It takes up an entire city block encompassing over 1 million square feet of retail space.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Began Under the Label of An Altogether Different Holiday

However, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began its life for an altogether different holiday. Macy’s employees came together in 1924 to organize a grand Christmas parade. The parade, featuring floats, bands, animals from the zoo, and a crowd of 10,000 onlookers, took place up 145th Street.

The grand event culminated with the appearance of Santa Claus and the unveiling of the store’s enchanting Christmas windows. Three years later, the Christmas Parade underwent a name change and became known as the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The parade started at 145th Street and Convent Avenue, proceeding until it reached Macy’s on 34th Street. According to the New York Times, enthusiastic crowds required a substantial police force to maintain order. Santa Claus arrived on a reindeer-pulled float and was crowned “King of the Kiddies,” followed by the unveiling of the store’s enchanting Christmas windows. The event was a resounding success and became an annual tradition, officially inaugurated as the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927.

However, Macy’s didn’t originate the Thanksgiving parade. Philadelphia takes the crown for the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade. The legendary Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, now known as the 6ABC – Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, made its debut back in 1920.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Wasn’t Always Televised

It may be difficult to fathom, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wasn’t always televised. Of course, this beloved tradition predates the advent of broadcast TV.

When the first broadcasts of the parade occurred in 1932, listeners had to rely on their imagination as they tuned in on the radio. Subsequently, the parade made its debut on television in 1946 in New York, and the following year, it was broadcast nationwide on NBC.

While being a TV wasn’t always in store for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, floats nearly always were. The balloon attractions made their debut in 1927, taking inspiration from a balloon float.

Even back then, these attractions were enormous, with one being a 60-foot dinosaur. However, in those times, they faced challenges beyond just strong winds and unpredictable weather. It is worth noting that until 1938, an elevated train used to run down Sixth Avenue.

Since its inaugural event in 1927, the parade has always featured well-known characters. The iconic Felix the Cat was there from the very beginning, and in 1934, Mickey Mouse joined the festivities. That same year, a balloon inspired by the popular entertainer Eddie Cantor made its debut. Over the years, the “Peanuts” characters, with Snoopy leading the way since 1968, have become regular guests.