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37 Facts You Probably Never Knew About The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

They used to release the balloons at the end of the Parade. Yes, seriously.

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The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a huge part of our holiday tradition, but there's a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes every year to make it happen.

Keely Flaherty / BuzzFeed

We visited the Macy's Parade Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey to learn how the floats and balloons are made, and just how many costumes it takes to dress the parade participants. (Spoiler: It's a whopping 4,000.)

1. The first Parade in 1924 was called “Macy’s Christmas Parade” although it took place on Thanksgiving Day. It was renamed in 1927.

2. Live animals — including lions, bears, tigers, camels, goats, elephants, and donkeys — were a part of the original Parade processions.

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3. In 1927, Macy’s replaced the live animals with giant balloons.The first balloons included Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant and Toy Soldier.

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12. The hardest synthetic prop to find is cornstalks. When you see cornstalks on a float in the Parade, they’re usually real cornstalks that have been sprayed with fire retardant.

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18. To deal with the helium shortage, Macy’s experimented early on with helium reclamation: The process of taking helium out of the Parade balloons and re-pressurizing it.

21. Each balloon has a flight management team: one pilot, two co-pilots, one captain, two assistant captains, and a team that controls the vehicle the balloon is anchored to.

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25. From 1929 until 1931, the balloons were let go at the end of the Parade. If you found the balloon, you could return it to Macy’s for a $50 gift certificate.

26. Macy’s stopped letting the balloons go when one got caught in the propeller of an airplane that was trying to catch it for the reward. The plane managed to land safely.

27. Each balloon starts with two identical plastic molds. One stays white with all the technical drawings (inflation ports, deflation ports, where security lines are attached, etc.), and the other one gets painted the exact color the real balloon will be.

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