NEW YORK CITY (TIP): Like previous years, everything was there – floats, balloons, cheerleaders and dancers, clowns, marching bands and performance groups, and of course the first glimpse of Santa Claus. But amid the fun, high-fives and cheers, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016 saw unprecedented security as there was a possibility of an extremist attack after a recent posting in an English language Islamic State group magazine that called the parade “an excellent target.” Thousands of people watching the 90th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade saw officers carrying assault rifles and portable radiation detectors and walking bomb-sniffing dogs, NYPD helicopters flying overhead, more than 80 sand-filled sanitation trucks parked at intersections and other spots along the route to serve as barriers against any kind of possible attack.
But heightened security could not impede the festive spirit as spectators cheered and yelled, “Thank you!”holding signs and balloons as they watched Santa Claus and his reindeer, Ronald McDonald and SpongeBob Square Pants pass by.
The parade stepped off at around 9 a.m. after a performance from The Muppets. Charlie Brown led the signature balloons as the parade kicked off with a ceremonial ribbon cutting before making its way down to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street. This year’s three-hour event marked 90 parades. Sixteen character balloons, 27 novelty/ornament balloons, 26 floats, 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers, more than 1,000 clowns and 16 marching bands and performance groups made their way down the 2.5-mile parade route. Felix the Cat, the parade’s first-ever balloon, returned this year. Celebrities, including singers Tony Bennett and Sarah McLachlan and Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez, were among the attendees.
The most popular holiday parade in America, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a Big Apple tradition since 1924. Attracting more than 3.5 million people to the streets of New York City each year, as well 50 million TV viewers nationwide, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving tradition in NYC that it’s often shortened to “The Macy’s Day Parade.”
Like any great tradition in NYC, the Macy’s Day Parade in Manhattan features a long and storied history. In the 1920s, many of Macy’s department store employees were first-generation European immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.
In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started by Louis Bambergerin Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York City by Macy’s.
The first-ever Macy’s Day Parade actually took place on Christmas of 1924. Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other fun costumes, and traveled with Central Park zoo animals and creative floats a lengthy six miles from Herald Square to Harlem in Manhattan.
The parade was meant to draw attention to the Macy’s store in NYC, and the gimmick worked – more than 250,000 people attended the inaugural Macy’s Day Parade. It was decided that this NYC parade would become an annual NY event in Manhattan. In 1927, Felix the Cat became the first giant balloon to ever take part in the Macy’s Day Parade. The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 as a result of World War II when commodities like helium and rubber were in short supply.