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The arrival of Santa Claus at the parade's finale marks the start of the Christmas seasonThe Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by Macy's. The tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States, tied with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, and four years younger than the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. The three-hour event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day.

First Mickey Mouse balloon to appear in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Originally the Macy's Christmas Parade), Thursday, November 29, 1934. Location: Broadway and 105th Street, New York City, NY.In the 1920s many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

In 1924, the inaugural parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade.) was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies." With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.

Large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.

At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's

Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941, and resumed in 1945 through 1951.

The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became a permanent part of American culture after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which shows actual footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948 . By this point the event, and Macy's sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism "Macy's Day Parade".

Macy's also sponsors the smaller Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, held two days after the main event. Other cities in the US also have parades on Thanksgiving, but they are not run by Macy's. The nation's oldest Thanksgiving parade (the Gimbels parade, now known as 6abc-Ikea) was first held in Philadelphia in 1920. Other cities include the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade of Chicago, Illinois and parades in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Fountain Hills, Arizona. A parade is also held at the two U.S. Disney theme parks.

New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. Also, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions.

Members of the Stevens Institute of Technology training for the parade in Giants Stadium parking lot.The balloons for the parade are inflated the day before (Wednesday) on both sides of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The balloons are split between 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The inflation team consists of various volunteers from Macy's as well as students from Stevens Institute of Technology, a local university in Hoboken, NJ where the balloons and floats are designed and built. Dubbed "Thanksgiving Eve Inflation Celebration", the inflation is open to the public the afternoon and night before the parade.

2010: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kung Fu Panda, Kaikai & Kiki by Murakami, Yes Virginia (Based on the true story of Virginia O'Hanlon)

2009: Pillsbury Doughboy, Mickey Mouse (4th version; "Sailor Mickey"), Ronald McDonald (3rd version), Spider-Man (2nd version)

2008: Horton the Elephant, Buzz Lightyear, Smurf, Figure with Heart by Keith Haring

2007: Shrek, Hello Kitty, Abby Cadabby, Jeff Koons "Bunny", Artie the Pirate (2nd version, replica of 1947 balloon)

2006: Pikachu with Poké Ball (2nd version, first balloon with built-in electric power to light up cheeks), Energizer Bunny, Flying Ace Snoopy (6th version), 80th Anniversary Hot Air Balloon Replica

2005: Dora the Explorer (first character of Latino descent in parade history), Scooby-Doo, Healthy Mr. Potato Head, JoJo, Upsidedown Humpty Dumpty by Tom Otterness

2004: SpongeBob SquarePants (character), Disney's Chicken Little, M&M's 2003: Barney (2nd version), Super Grover, Garfield (2nd version)

2002: Kermit the Frog (2nd version), Little Bill (First African-American character in parade history), Rich Uncle Pennybags, Charlie Brown

2001: Curious George, Big Bird (2nd version), Jimmy Neutron, Pikachu, Cheesasaurus Rex, Happy Hippo, Toy Soldier (replica of 1927 balloon)

2000: Bandleader Mickey Mouse (3rd version), Ronald McDonald (2nd version), Jeeves, Cassie Dragon Tales, Blue Elf (replica of 1947 Gnome)

1999: Millennium Snoopy (5th version), Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Blue's Clues, Petulia Pig

1998: Babe the Pig, Wild Thing, Dexter

1997: Arthur, Rugrats, Bumpé

1996: Rocky and Bullwinkle (2nd version), Peter Rabbit

1995: Dudley the Dragon, SkyDancer, Eben Bear; Izzy)

1994: Barney the Dinosaur, The Cat in the Hat.

1993: Beethoven (dog), Rex, Sonic the Hedgehog (first video game character in parade history)

1992: Goofy

1991: Babar the Elephant

1990: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bart Simpson

1989: Bugs Bunny

1988: Nestlé Nesquik Bunny, Big Bird, Pink Panther, Snoopy (4th version) with Woodstock.

1987: Spider-Man, Ronald McDonald, Snuggle Bear, Skating Snoopy (3rd version), Ice Cream Cone Novelty Balloon

1986: Baby Shamu, Humpty Dumpty

1985: Betty Boop, Ornament Novelty Balloons

1984: Garfield, Raggedy Ann

1983: Yogi Bear

1982: Olive Oyl (first female character in parade history), Woody Woodpecker, Superman (3rd version, largest balloon to appear in parade)

1977: Kermit the Frog

1975: Weeble

1972: Smile (Happy Face), Mickey Mouse (2nd version), Astronaut Snoopy (2nd version, a tribute to Apollo 11)

1968: Aviator Snoopy

1966: Smokey Bear, Superman (2nd version)

1965: Underdog

1964: Linus the Lionhearted

1963: Sinclair Oil Dinosaur, Elsie the Cow

1962: Donald Duck

1961: Bullwinkle J. Moose

1960: Happy Dragon

1957: Popeye

1951: Lucky Pup, Mighty Mouse, Flying fish

1949: Toy soldier

1948: Harold the Fireman (4th version)

1947: Artie The Pirate, Gnome, Harold the Police Officer (3rd version)

1946: Harold the Baseball Player (2nd version)

1945: Harold the Clown (1st version)

1940: Eddie Cantor, one of only two balloons based on a living person or people

1939: Superman

1938: Uncle Sam

1935: The Marx Brothers (after Zeppo Marx's departure)

1934: Mickey Mouse

1931: Mama, Papa and Baby

1927: Felix the Cat

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