Parade Buzz Builds, But Will You Be Watching?

November 19, 2010

I’m a sucker for tradition, especially around the holidays, and one of my favorites occurs next week — the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Whether you’re a fan or not, this Thanksgiving Day tradition has been a staple for many families for 85 years. In fact, an estimated 50 million people are expected to tune in to watch this year with another approximately three million hitting the streets of New York to witness the festivities in person. It’s not surprising it has become so commercialized. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

“The goal of the parade is, and has always been, to talk to every one of our customers,” Amy Kule, newly named executive producer for the parade, said in a recent interview with Sarah Mahoney at MediaPost.

With a lineup boasting “participants” from one extreme to another, including the sometimes controversial Kanye West to a bilingual Dora the Explorer float, it’s easy to see how event organizers are throwing in a little something for everyone.

Also performing this year are Kylie Minogue, Jessica Simpson, Arlo Guthrie, teen singer Victoria Justice, Gladys Knight, boy band Big Time Rush and Colombian rock singer Juanes, to name a few.

And, for those of you interested in random trivia, following are a few fun facts I recently stumbled upon about the parade:

  • From Zoo Animals to Today’s Branding Zoo – The first Thanksgiving Day Parade (originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade) was started by Macy’s employees and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. Today, nearly 50 branded characters/floats appear in this almost two-mile parade.
  • Finders Keepers? – In 1928, the helium balloons were redesigned with safety valves, allowing them to float for several days, and return address labels were added offering rewards for returning a runaway balloon.
  • Parade Hiatus – The parade took a brief hiatus between 1942 and 1944 due to WWII and associated rubber and helium shortages.
  • Joining the Party – Kung Fu Panda, the Kool-Aid Man, Greg Hefley/Diary of a Wimpy Kid and a balloon based on Virginia O’Hanlon (from the famous letter Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus) will be making their Parade debut this year alongside parade veterans such as Snoopy, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Kermit the Frog. (It takes approximately 40 balloon handlers to control one balloon.)
  • Sneak Peek – The parade balloons are inflated the night before and can be viewed on 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.

So, will you be one of the 50 million people tuning in on Thursday?