[Image above] Tom Turkey, originally introduced under the name “Toy Turkey” in 1973, is the unofficial mascot of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. How are Tom and the other floats created? Credit: slgckgc, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
If you live in the United States, hopefully you remembered to thaw your turkey—tomorrow is Thanksgiving!
A lot of people look forward to watching the scheduled American football games on Thanksgiving in the U.S. But my family always looks forward to another tradition—Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade in New York City presented by the U.S.-based department store Macy’s. The store staged its first Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924, and today the three-hour parade is reportedly the largest (and second oldest) parade in the world. (An NBC Today Show special on the 2018 parade said the parade attracts more than 53 million viewers and spectators.)
The signature feature of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the gigantic balloons, which first debuted in 1927, three years after the inaugural parade. But floats, another mainstay of the parade, have been part of the parade since its inception.
The huge, flashy floats seen today achieved their spectacle status in 1969 when parade designer Manfred Bass began creating the floats. (Bass was Macy’s chief parade designer for more than 40 years; he died in 2017.) His elaborate, multi-staged platforms made ideal stages to display celebrity entertainment, and in the 1970s, the parade became “a virtual Hollywood Squares of B-list talents,” according to a The Bowery Boys article.
Today, floats are constructed from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, fiberglass, fabric, and foam. When fully assembled, floats can reach large dimensions (for example, the Statue of Liberty float was 21 feet tall, 15 feet wide, and 19 feet long), but the floats all collapse to no more than 12.5 feet tall and 8 feet wide so they can journey from the Macy’s Parade Studio in Hoboken, N.J., through the Lincoln Tunnel and into New York City the day before the parade.
In 2008, Macy’s released the video below explaining the design process for floats and some of the main materials involved in construction.
This year, Macy’s released another video that focuses on a newer aspect of the design process—using computers to create digital models.
In anticipation of the parade, each year Macy’s gives a sneak preview of the new floats created for the parade. This year will feature five new floats:
- Blue’s Clues & You! – by Nickelodeon
- The Brick-Changer – by The Lego Group
- Home Sweet Home – by Cracker Barrell Old Country Store
- Toy House of Marvelous Milestones – by New York Life
- Rexy in the City – by Coach
The last float—“Rexy in the City”—is special because it marks the first time a luxury brand will have a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Check out the 12 News story on the floats that aired last week.
While the floats will definitely grace the streets of New York City on Thursday, the decision to fly the giant balloons is currently up in the air.
“From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., winds will be up to 34 to 37 miles per hour during the entire day. There will be sunshine, but the winds will be noticeable,” Tim Morrin, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says in a NorthJersey.com article.
New York City regulations require balloons to be grounded when winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph.