1. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in 1924 and was actually called “The Christmas Parade.”
2. The first parade to feature a giant balloon was in 1927, Felix the Cat.
3. Shockingly enough, at the end of each parade the giant helium-filled balloons were released into the air and would float over New York for roughly a week. A $100 prize was given to whoever retrieved the balloon after it deflated.
4. The practice stopped in 1933 after a pilot died crashing his plane in an attempt to capture the balloon.
5. 1942 to 1944 were the only three years the parade did not occur due to helium shortages during World War II.
6. Macy’s is the second largest consumer of helium after the U.S. government.
7. In 1946, when the parade’s starting line was moved to 77th and Central Park West, it drew in a record-setting 2 million live spectators.
8. The parade was first televised locally in 1946 and nationally in 1947.
9. Due to another helium shortage in 1958, the balloons were carried down Broadway on construction cranes.
10. In 1963, the parade was nearly canceled due to the assassination of JFK just one week earlier. Instead, the show continued, giving some much needed happiness to a grieving nation.
11. Twelve parade broadcasts since 1979 have been awarded the daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement.
12. None other than Betty White hosted the Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1962 to 1971.
13. Other famous hosts include: Regis Philbin, Bryant Gumbel, Willard Scott, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Katie Couric, and Al Roker.
14. In the late 1980s the parade began adding characters from contemporary cartoons, pop culture, and video games.
15. Snoopy first appeared in 1968. Since then he has been the most featured character in Thanksgiving Day Parade history, proving some things never really change.
16. Beginning in 1996, Macy’s began inflating the balloons publicly on the Upper West Side of Manhattan the Wednesday before the Parade.
Handlers and police try to control Pink Panther balloon after it hit a lamppost during Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square, 1997.
17. Each year, approximately 3.5 million New Yorkers watch the parade live from the streets.
Matt Lauer and Katie Couric in 1998.