Photos From Behind the Scenes at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
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.
Elf on the Ground
A holiday favorite, Elf on the Shelf, rests in a fetal-like position on the ground, weighted by a large net and hundreds of sandbags.
Candy Cane Crew
Amongst the larger pop culture balloons, Macy's also has fun holiday-themed novelty balloons. The candy cane takes a smaller but equally talented crew of volunteers to operate.
Good Grief, Charlie Brown
A volunteer inspects the Charlie Brown balloon and is dwarfed by the size of the newly debuted balloon.
An Impossible Catch, Pikachu
The sensational Pokémon favorite, Pikachu, lays unrecognizable as the team prepares to inflate the beloved creature.
Angry Bird Wranglers
The larger balloons need up to 100 handlers during the parade and sometimes even in the inflation process.
A balloon crew expert investigates a snag in the net as the Red Angry Bird struggles to inflate with ease. The parade could not be made possible if it weren't for the talented teams that work tirelessly to ensure perfection.
The helium for the balloons in brought in from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on four 18-wheeler trucks holding a total of nearly 800,000 standard cubic feet of helium.
Almost fully inflated, SpongeBob SquarePants lays face down along 77th St. The spongy character from the 18-year running Nickelodeon show has been in the parade since 2004.
Every year the public is invited to watch the inflation process along Central Park near the American Museum of Natural History. Each balloon comes with a set of detailed instructions on how to inflate on a large wooden board, incase the volunteers need guidance.
Two volunteers hold the hose to inflate Scrat, the Saber-tooth squirrel, from 'Ice Age'.
The beloved snow-creature, Olaf, made it's first appearance today. He was first to inflate and peers on as hard working volunteers take a hot soup break in the cold weather.
The green brontosaurus (dinosaur) first made it's debut in 1963 and took a nearly 40 year hiatus before making a re-appearance in 2015. This balloon, at full inflation, is one of the few life-sized balloons in the parade.