Every year more than 50 million people, 3.5 million in the New York area alone, watch in person or on television one of the most popular parades in the world, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, best known for its gigantic shaped balloons celebrating pop culture icons from different generations.
With Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) taking flight in balloon form this year, let’s kick off the holiday season with 10 quick random and geeky facts about favorite holiday and theme park parades.
1. According to Macy’s official site, the first Macy’s Parade was in 1924, by request of Macy’s employees. Many were first generation immigrants wanting to celebrate their pride in their new home, as well as the upcoming Christmas season. Then, the parade was only a couple of blocks long, but Santa’s arrival was already the highlight.
2. The first of Macy’s “big balloons” debuted in 1927 shaped like Felix the Cat. In the early days of balloons, organizers didn’t deflate the big helium creatures. Instead, they just let them go and fly away after the parade. The rumor is Felix made his way to the Bahamas where he landed on their Bimini Islands.
3. Believe it or not, Grogu is the first Star Wars themed balloon ever created for the Macy’s Parade. He is inspired by the Funko Pop! Design, and is 41 feet high, 29 feet long, and 37 feet wide. That’s a lot of Baby Yoda to hug.
Here’s the preview of Grogu and some of the other new balloons this year that included Netflix’s Ada Twist, Scientist, and Pokemon’s 25th anniversary balloon with Pikachu and Eevee.
4. One holiday parade older than Macy’s is Pasadena California’s Tournament of Roses Parade, that began under the direction of the Valley Hunt Club with rose-covered horse drawn carriages in 1890. The first football game associated with the parade didn’t take place until 1902, and the “Rose Bowl” didn’t start until 1916. Today, an estimated 18 million flowers are used in the parade each year, and most of the plants are made into compost once the floats are dismantled.
5. In 2007, with George Lucas named as the Rose Parade’s Grand Marshall, the first Star Wars themed float was created in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. In addition to the float itself, it features members of the 501st Legion from all over the world, and music by from the Grambling State University marching band.
6. Star Wars returned in 2016 with Disney’s “Diamond Celebration” float showing three big sections, one depicting Frozen, one with Mickey, and one celebrating the new Star Wars movies and attractions.
7. Speaking of Disney, the Disney Parks around the world are no strangers to parades, and one of their most famous parades is the Main Street Electrical Parade. Disney’s first showing of an electric parade celebrated the opening of Disney’s Polynesian Resort in October of 1971. The parade itself came to Disneyland in 1972 as way to keep people at the park after dark. It started by using small Christmas lights, but the most recent version featured more than 600,000 electronically controlled LED lights.
8. The parade was only meant to run for one year, but soon became a summer and holiday weekend mainstay. It has come and gone from the park more than once, with more than one “farewell season,” the most recent in 2019. However, in October of this year, Disney teased on its official TikTok, the parade just may be returning to Disneyland once again. Some fans speculate it will be in 2022, in time for the parade’s 50th anniversary.
9. When and if the parade returns, it will likely continue to feature its earworm theme music, “Baroque Hoedown.” This song wasn’t originally written for the parade, as many think. It was written in 1967 by synthesizer pioneers Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingley for the album Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music from the Way Out. The song was even sampled in 1968 Beatles fan club record, and has much more recently been covered by bands like They Might Be Giants, Reel Big Fish, and Buckethead.
Here’s They Might Be Giants from the compilation Disney Mania 2:
10. There are countless parades held for thousands of reason held everyday and everywhere, but what is the longest parade float ever created? According to Guinness World Records, Hua Tiande and Liancheng Baihua Chemical Company Ltd, in Gutian, Fujian, China created a 4,265-foot dragon float consisting of more than 345 sections in 2012. Unfortunately, by the end of the massive one-float parade, weather had damaged or destroyed almost half the sections.
As for the longest parade in the world, that is probably the Marksmen’s Parade for Germany’s Hanover Schützenfest. It covers 7.5 miles with more than 10,000 participants (including more than 100 bands and 60 vehicles or carriages) from around the globe.