In 1924, Macy’s flagship store expanded to 1 million square feet and covered an entire city block in New York City. To showcase the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” and the beginning of the holiday shopping season, Macy’s decided to host a parade on Thanksgiving morning. The Macy’s employees dressed up in different costumes, with Central Park zoo animals in tow, and paraded from Herald Square to Harlem- the length of 6 miles! Santa Claus closed the parade as the guest of honor on a float with reindeer.
More than 250,000 people came to watch the parade and it was deemed a success and set to become an annual event. Some changes were made to the parade after the inaugural year, mainly that the zoo animals were kept in the zoo and were replaced with huge balloons. In 1927, Felix the Cat was the first balloon to join the parade. After the parade was over, there was no plan on how to deflate Felix, so he was released into the sky where he popped!
The parade has continued to evolve throughout the years. Today the parade is only 2.65 miles, but it’s filled with dozens of balloons, bands, dancers and celebrities. Santa Claus remains the guest of honor to close the parade and his arrival unofficially marks the beginning of the Christmas season in New York.