A giant model turkey named Tom on a float always opens the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

Thanksgiving Parade

Posted by Speakeasy News > Monday 21 November 2022 > Celebrate

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City is almost 100 years old, and is an integral part of the annual holiday for millions of Americans. Celebrating Thanksgiving and launching Christmas celebrations, it includes giant balloon figures, floats, and marching bands from schools around the country. This year it will take place on 24 November.

Macy’s department store started the parade in 1924, but since it was cancelled for three years during WWII, 2022 is the 96th edition. The organisers say more than three million people line the streets of Manhattan to watch the three-hour parade on the morning of Thanksgiving Thursday, and 50 million watch it on TV.

Black Friday
The parade is always opened by a Thanksgiving float featuring a giant model of a turkey named Tom. And it ends with a Christmas float. Just as the Friday after Thanksgiving, now known the world over as Black Friday, launches the Christmas shopping season.

Santa Claus on a float closes the parade.
Santa Claus on a float closes the parade.

The first parades included real zoo animals but in 1927 they were replaced with gigantic helium balloons.

Many of theme are children's cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, who first appeared in 1934, and Snoopy.

A black and white photo of a giant Mickey Mouse helium balloon.

A Snoopy balloon in a NASA astronaut uniform, accompanied by people wearing a similar uniform.

There are American cultural icons like Uncle Sam and Smokey Bear, the mascot of the United States Forest Service, who has been teaching the public how to avoid causing wildfires since 1944.

An Uncle Sam balloon from the 1940s.
Smokey Bear balloon dressed as a ranger and carrying an axe.
Smokey Bear.

Macy's also asks popular contemporary artists to design balloons for its  Blue Sky Gallery Series. This 2008 balloon called Figure with Heart was based on a design by street artist and activist Keith Haring .

A balloon of a white human figure crouching and holding a red loveheart.

Tim Burton was asked to create a balloon for the parade in 2011. He came up with a figure  known as B. Boy, or “B.” for short. Burton gave the character a back story:  B. was created from leftover party balloons at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. He wasn't allowed to play with the other children due to his sharp teeth, prompting him to retreat to the hospital’s basement dreaming that he would fly someday.

A humanoid balloon with a large blue head with visible stitching and a red-and-white romper suit.

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