Macy's 91st Thanksgiving Day Parade

Published: November 20, 2017 by Katie Kuryla

Thanksgiving week is upon us! How will you be spending this holiday? I plan on watching the Macy’s 91st Thanksgiving Day Parade. While thinking about the new floats, I began to wonder where the floats are stored during the 364 other days and if there is an archives for that.

Louis Bamberger started the parade in 1924 when his department store, Bamberger’s was transferred to New York City by Macy’s. The Bamberger’s employees marched to the Macy’s store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. They had floats, professional bands and live animals that were borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. Macy’s declared it would become an annual event. In 1927, Macy’s replaced the live animals with large animal-shaped balloons created by Anthony Frederick Sarg and produced by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company from Akron, Ohio. At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst and the following year they were designed with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found them could mail them back and receive a gift from Macys.

While it wouldn’t be considered Santa’s North Pole workshop, for the employees, it might be the closest thing in the world to it. A warehouse known as Macy’s Parade Studio is located in Moonachie, New Jersey and it is where a group of workers, painters, sculptors, carpenters, construction workers, metal workers, and more, build the floats, balloons, and costumes.

While the walls are lined with gingerbread men and nutcrackers and throughout the studio you can find two massive turkeys, a larger-than-life robot, a dragon, Pikachu, and the newest balloon, Olaf, projects from past parades decorate the warehouse. Hanging from the ceiling are balloon models from past parades. There is a frame that was originally built for Macy's "Mother Goose Land" back in 1990. And the studio has a library of books, mostly for children, that the artists use as a reference to help turn two-dimensional characters into real-life, 3D figures.

When you head over to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade website, their digital archives hold press releases, historic images, and historic videos of parade past. To see how different the balloons differ from 1924 to 2017 is very interesting.

But the website isn’t the only digital archive for the parade. Through Facebook, there is a community archives called the Big Parade History Project 

which was founded in 2011. Their mission is to create a living history of a storied and famed Department Store’s annual march on the 4th Thursday of November. A place where participants of the events past can tell their stories of their time in the event, perhaps you even have pictures of your brush with fame in marching in this event that is so firmly enshrined as part of American culture. They want fans of the parade to share with them so they can create a lasting tribute to the his

tory of the parade and connect with new fans that discover the excitement of this famous event every year.

With this community archives, 325 photos have already been shared. There are photos of an article regarding what the balloons use to be made of. Pictures of the baseball 

player balloon and the daschund that looks just like slinky from Toy Story but more triangular. The project is focused on being a digital based project and they even promoted recently that they had uncovered some footage that was being digitized for their big reveal.  

Watching the parade is a family tradition for me and knowing more about it’s history makes it a little more exciting this year. Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving week!







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