10 Fun Facts About the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade;
- The first parade didn’t even have balloons. Instead, the 1924 event featured live animals, including lions and camels. The first ever “character balloon” was Felix the Cat, who made his debut in the 1927 parade.
- Creating a balloon is roughly a five-month process.”There are a lot of different stages, and it depends on how intricate a balloon is,” says Kule. “A round one with eyes and mouth is easy, but a Troll balloon with four characters takes a lot of engineering to bring to life. About five months is the average time.”
- Macy’s owns every single balloon. They aren’t rented or outsourced, but made by hand in the official Macy’s parade studio in New Jersey. ‘We’ve got an incredible studio where we design, build and engineer each of the balloons,” says Kule. “It’s a big beautiful space that allows us to inflate the balloons. It’s also where we build the floats, and it houses all the costumes everyone will wear in the parade. It’s actually a magical space.”
- They didn’t use helium at first. The original balloons were supported by poles, and weren’t inflated with helium until 1928. This year, to celebrate the 90th parade, there will be an exact replica of the 1927 Felix the Cat balloon that will be walked down the streets supported by handlers holding poles.
- A balloon has never broken free – though they used to set them loose. “That’s a fun fantasy!” says Kule, when asked whether any have escaped into the air. “But they are very well secured. We actually used to let them go at the end of the parade, but then we decided we should keep them so we could reuse them. It also became a safety issue. But up until 1931, if you found one in your yard, you could bring the tag to Macy’s and receive a special gift.”
- The first female balloon flew in 1929, then not again until the ’80s.”The first female was Mrs. Katzenjammer from an old American comic who flew in 1929, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that women flew again, when we had Olive Oyl in 1982, and Raggedy Ann in 1984,” says Kule.
- Walt Disney himself worked on the first Mickey Mouse balloon. “The first time Mickey flew was in 1934, and we designed him with Walt Disney,” says Kule. “We’ve had four versions of Mickey since, but we haven’t seen him fly in about seven years.”
- SpongeBob is no easy balloon. “Balloons typically want to be round,” Kule says. “When you have a square balloon it’s generally difficult because there are so many handling ropes in order to keep the square shape. So we added a Christmas hat last time to give him better lift.” (For each balloon, there are anywhere from 45 to 70 handlers.)
- The balloons may be set free again in the future. “I do hope to let them go up in the air again in 2026, to celebrate the 100th parade!” says Kule.
- The Liberty Group has been providing the transportation of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons for over 30 years!
There is always something to be thankful for…