One of the best Thanksgiving day traditions is gathering the family in the morning to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — complete with live music, Broadway show previews, a special appearance of Santa Claus, and of course, dozens of gigantic balloons of favorite pop culture characters.
But you might not realize that the famous parade, now in its 91st year, involves a huge amount of preparation and production in order to entertain millions of people around the country every year.
Technically, the first Macy’s parade began in 1924, but instead of celebrating the general holiday season, the department store threw the parade in order to celebrate their grand opening as “World’s Largest Store” — and hopefully get customers to start their Christmas shopping.
The sheer size of the parade these days requires months of training and planning and all of it could not be done without volunteers. In order to be a volunteer for the parade, you must be an of age employee of Macy's or sponsored by one. Once you have secured a spot, you are required to attend training sessions based on your assigned duty. The balloon handlers may have the toughest gig of them all. Many large character balloons need at least 50 handlers at once in order to control them through the 2.5 mile route as each balloon weighs 100 to 500 pounds.
The parade also includes a handful of popular entertainers and celebrities, a dozen marching bands and performance groups from around the country and roughly one thousand clowns.
Take a look at some of these behind the scenes photos of all the people who make the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade magical.