Christmas Traditions: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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One of the most popular Christmas traditions is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held Thanksgiving morning, in New York City. The parade, which is the largest one in America includes marching bands, musical performances from Broadway shows and popular musicians, the Radio City Rockettes, celebrity appearances, and of course the infamous balloons and floats.  This year’s parade will be on Thursday, November 24, 2011 between 9am-12:30pm EST.  The parade begins at Central Park West and ends at Herald Square.

In Terms of Christmas Traditions, This Parade is the Most Popular of them All!

The statistics:

  • The parade was started in 1924 to give employees an opportunity to show their civic pride.
  • Live zoo animals were featured the first few years of the parade.
  • It was first televised in 1939.
  • It has never missed a year except when it was suspended from 1942-1944 due to WWII.
  • The parade attracts more than 10,000 participants.
  • An estimated 50 million viewers will see it broadcast live from NBC & Telemundo.
  • 3.5 million people take to the streets to view the parade in person.
  • The parade is free and there are no public seating tickets.
  • 2011 will be the 85th parade.

Viewing the parade in person:  Seating is only available to Macy’s executives, politicians, charitable organizations, and corporate sponsors.  Your best bet for viewing the parade is to stay in a hotel along the parade route.  If you choose not to stay in a hotel, they recommend you arrive no later than 6:30am on the parade course and leave your chair at home.  Dress warm as the weather is usually chilly this time of year in New York City.  The area most crowded is the official viewing area on 34th Street.  The best views, we’re told, is between 72nd Street (Central Park West) and 61st Street.

Balloon preparation:  A lot of work and preparation go into creating the huge helium balloons that we look forward to seeing.  About a year before the parade, the balloons are designed on a computer and transformed into miniature clay models.  Once the balloons are manufactured, each balloon must go through a series of trial inflations and test flights.  Several weeks before the parade each balloon is flown under the leadership of a group of approximately 17 people and this event has become known as “Balloonfest”.   70 balloon handlers are taught how to fly and support the balloons.

Floats:
  What type of balloons will be participating this year?  A few of them include Buzz Lightyear, Kermit the Frog, Kung Fu Panda, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, Ronald McDonald, Shrek, Spider-Man, Hello Kitty, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants.  More than 30 floats will be partaking in the parade this year.

Performers:   The Radio City Rockettes and Santa Claus always participate in the parade and you can expect to see more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, a dozen bands and 1,000 clowns.  Celebrities slated to appear include Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne, Scotty McCreery, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan and many others.

Previewing the night before:  Between 3-10pm the night before you can watch the balloons being inflated on 77th & 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

Questions:
  You can call their hotline for more information at 212-494-4495.

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