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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    4. Since then, there have been 171 giant character balloons in the Parade.

    5. The Clifford the Big Red Dog balloon was in 12 consecutive Parades, and Snoopy holds the record for number of balloon designs. He’s been designed 7 different times.

    6. In 1934, the first balloon based on a real person was included in the Parade. It was modeled after performer Eddie Cantor.

    7. Santa Claus has ended the Macy’s Parade every year except for 1933, the only year in which he led the Parade.

    8. The Parade was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.

    9. The Studio orders glitter in 25-pound packages, and depending on the design, will go through 100-200 pounds of glitter for one float.

    10. About 99% of all the floats and balloons are hand-painted.

    11. And the many paints are organized by float.

    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.

    13. The floats are full of small details that are hard to pick out when you're just watching the Parade on television.

    14. The Parade is a year-round production, and the people employed in the Studio are full-time employees.

    15. The night before the Parade, all the floats and balloons have to go through the Lincoln Tunnel.

    16. Every float has to be designed to come apart, fold, and fit through a toll booth (12.5ft tall by 8.5 feet wide).

    17. The average size of a float is 2.5-3 stories tall, and roughly 3 lanes of traffic wide.

    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.

    19. Afterwards, NASA allegedly contacted their helium distributor to pick their brain on helium reclamation.

    20. To test the balloons before the Parade, each chamber is inflated with air (not helium) and the balloon has to stay afloat for 6 hours.

    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.

    22. On the day of the Parade, all 2,000 Balloon Handlers dress in costumes that color-coordinate with their balloon.

    23. Even the inflation teams — the teams who inflate the different balloons the night before the Parade — wear color-coordinated jumpsuits.

    24. Each balloon goes through engineering analysis to test how far it will sway off-path in different wind speeds at different heights.

    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.

    28. Most of the Parade floats are made out of styrofoam cut from 2 ft X 2 ft X 8 ft blocks that are cut using various sculpting tools.

    29. An immense amount of research goes into each float and balloon, for example the Stone Forest Mountain that will appear on the China float this year was recreated in painstaking detail.

    30. This year, there will be 4,000 individual costumes for all Parade participants, and everyone has to get dressed in a 2-hour span of time.

    31. A large cedar closet — nicknamed Santa’s Closet — was built specifically for Santa and Mrs. Claus’ costumes.

    32. All of the Claus’ costumes are custom-made, including each jingle bell.

    33. Most of the costumes are machine washable.

    34. The day after the Parade, the costumes are brought back in 10-11 truckloads, and sorted into lights, darks and color piles to launder.

    35. It takes about a month to get all of the Parade costumes laundered, and another month to reassemble all the costumes into their packages.

    36. Of those 4,000 costumes, over 900 are clown costumes.

    37. When asked to define the Parade, the Vice President of the Studio said it is, and always has been, "a holiday treat for children of all ages."