The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade held every Thanksgiving Day in New York City. Originally called the Macy's Christmas Parade, it was first held in 1924 and has been cancelled only twice due to rubber shortages during World War II. The two and a half mile parade features large balloons of well-known characters alongside floats and marching bands, ending with a float of Santa Claus upon his sleigh, marking the start of the Christmas season.
Interestingly, all performers in the parade, including those appearing through Sesame Workshop and others, must become "employees" of Macy's.
Kermit the Frog and the Muppets
The first Kermit the Frog balloon debuted in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1977. The balloon was 63 feet tall and 24 feet wide, and took four hours and 5,220 cubic feet of helium to reach its full size. It was constructed at the Goodyear plant in Rockmart, Georgia.
The Muppet cast made a live appearance in the 1979 Parade to promote The Muppet Movie. Miss Piggy rode the parade route in a Rolls Royce, followed by the rest of the Muppets in the Electric Mayhem bus.
Also in 1979, the Kermit balloon was the first inflatable from the parade to travel outside of the USA, heading to England to help celebrate the International Year of the Child. The 1979 Sesame Street Calendar represented the Macy's parade in its November picture, depicting the Kermit float being heled by the Sesame Street Muppets.
The 1985 parade was affected by heavy rain, which weighed down the balloons. The Kermit balloon ripped its stomach along Central Park West during the parade. An AP report said that "The Kermit balloon was punctured by a tree and almost crashed into spectators as it sailed down the parade route with its left foot dragging the street."  With only about 20% of his helium inside the balloon, Kermit was carried for the rest of the parade by his green-clad frog handlers.
In 1987, Jim Henson and Kermit appeared live on the telecast to accept the Rollie Award, an award named for Rowland H. Macy, for their years of service to the parade. Kermit graciously accepted the award, saying, "Listen, to be immortalized in a large balloon about 75 feet tall and filled with gas is one of the greatest thrills of my life, and I wish everybody out there could have the same exciting thrill. And it would be a wonderful parade if they did."
The Kermit balloon suffered another mishap in 1991, when it scraped against high branches on Central Park West, tearing a hole in the balloon. "We thought he had turned into a tree frog," said Marc Schwab, the balloon captain. "Personally, I think he saw Miss Piggy on a sidestreet. But he was a real trouper. He was down, so to speak, but he wasn't out."  The New York Times reported that the balloon, "borne by its crew and wildly cheered on by the crowd, galumphed on toward Herald Square."  Parade producer Jean McFaddin talked about the incident in 1995, saying, "If a balloon gets disfigured so that it would be disruptive to children, we pull it out of the parade." Asked what would be disruptive enough, McFaddin answered, "If Kermit had his face torn off." Kermit was left in the parade in '91, although the mostly-deflated, 1,000-pound balloon had to be carried down Broadway by his handlers. "He looked like he was swimming," McFaddin said. 
After this incident, the Kermit balloon was retired from the Parade. 
After an 11-year hiatus from the Parade, a new Kermit the Frog balloon debuted in 2002.  The new balloon is 78 feet long, 61 feet high and 36 feet wide, with a volume of 11,000 cubic feet of helium. 
To mark the occasion, Kermit was the official holiday mascot for Macy's in 2002, and he rode on Santa's sleigh at the end of the parade.  During the broadcast, Kermit and Miss Piggy were interviewed by Today Show weatherman Al Roker to talk about the new balloon.  (Not so coincidentally, their new TV-movie, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie aired on NBC a day later.)
In 2008, Kermit appeared live on the Central Park float, and performed the song "I Believe". In 2009, Kermit performed the song again, as a duet with Tiffany Thornton. The song was also performed on the Santa Claus float soon after.
Several Sesame characters have also appeared in balloon form. Big Bird's balloon debuted in 1988; the balloon (designed by Michael Frith) featured Big Bird wearing a winter cap and a sweater, and carrying alphabet blocks. In 1998, the Big Bird balloon was the lead balloon in the parade, although the day was particularly windy and rainy, and the balloon was kept low to the ground in order to test the wind. 
After ten years, the original Big Bird balloon was wearing out -- according to a Christian Science Monitor article, "Its stitching is frayed, and he's been patched a lot." A new balloon was made in 2001, showing Big Bird playing a pair of cymbals. 
The Abby Cadabby balloon stands at 56 feet long, 37.5 feet wide, and 48.5 feet high; Abby and her magic wand are filled with 16,100 cubic feet of helium.
A Sesame Street float first appeared in the parade in 1974, with Muppets and cast members waving to the crowd. The original float featured two buildings -- the 123 Sesame Street brownstone, and Hooper's Store. The streetlight with the Sesame Street street sign was located at the front of the float; a ramshackle fence was at the back, decorated with numbers and letters. Big Bird perched on the roof of the float; Cookie Monster and other Muppet characters stuck their heads out of the windows, and human cast members (including Mr. Hooper, Gordon and Bob) stood on the front of the float.  This float appeared in five consecutive parades, through 1978.
In 1979, Children's Television Workshop celebrated the 10th anniversary of the show with a brand new float, a much taller, two-story structure. Big Bird sat in his nest at the top of the building, and cast members and kids appeared at the front of the float. A sign was carried in front of the float which said, "Macy's wishes Sesame Street a Happy 10th Year". As most of the main Muppet performers were working The Electric Mayhem Bus for The Muppet Movie, additional puppeteers were recruited. Among them were Kevin Clash, in his first Muppet-related performance. Clash performed Cookie Monster, and remembers having lost his voice from shouting in the gravelly impersonation throughout the route. It was at this parade's Henson after-party that Kermit Love introduced him to Jim Henson.
In 2002, the Sesame float featured a timely message about peace and universal goodwill, and the American cast was joined by a group of international Sesame Muppets. The international Muppets included Filfil, Nimnim and Khokha from Egypt's Alam Simsim, Zuzu from South Africa's Takalani Sesame, Hu Hu Zhu from China's Zhima Jie, Rumpel and Samson from Germany's Sesamstrasse, Kareem, Dafi and Haneen from the Palestinian Shara'a Simsim, Abelardo and Lola from Mexico's Plaza Sésamo, and Zeliboba from the Russian Ulitsa Sezam. That year, the cast sang "We Are All Earthlings".
|1974||Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Mr. Hooper, Gordon, Bob. |
|1978||Big Bird |
|1981||Big Bird, Sesame Street Live characters |
|1982||Big Bird, Maria, Mr. Hooper, Gordon, Susan |
|1984||Big Bird, Oscar, walk-around Ernie, walk-around Bert, walk-around Cookie Monster |
|1990||"Do You Like Me?" ||Ernie and Bert walk-around characters.|
|1999||"How Do You Do?" |
|2000||"Reach Your Hand Up High"|
|2001||"A Little Bit"||Big Bird|
|2002||"We Are All Earthlings"||U.S. characters: Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe. International: Filfil, Nimni, Khokha, Zuzu, Hu Hu Zhu, Rumpel, Samson, Kareem, Dafi, Haneen, Abelardo, Lola, Zeliboba.|
|2003||"Good Morning World"||Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Herry, Mumford, Bert, Ernie, Cookie, Rosita, Alice, Barkley, Luis, Bob, Maria, Gabi|
|2004||"The Street We Live On"|
|2006||"Another Sunny Day" ||Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Prairie Dawn, Cookie Monster, Grover, Mr. Johnson, Rosita, Herry Monster, AM Monster, Penguin, Oscar, Ernie, Bert, Telly, Hoots, Gabi, Gina, Susan, Luis, Bob, Gordon, Miles|
|2007||"It Feels Good When You Sing a Song" ||Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Gina, Miles, Gabi, Luis, Hoots the Owl, Barkley, Grover, Baby Bear, Cookie Monster, Alice Snuffleupagus, Rosita, Prairie Dawn, Murray Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Count von Count, Bert, Ernie, Bob, Susan, Telly, Grundgetta, The Kids|
|2008||"Songs" with pianist Lang Lang ||Abby Cadabby, Alice, Barkley, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Bob, Herry, Telly, Baby Bear, Grover, Grundgetta, The Count, Prairie Dawn, Ernie, Bert, Murray Monster, Karina the Ballerina, Rosita, Oscar, Leela, Maria, Susan, Gina, Luis|
|2009||Medley: "Sing" and "What Makes Music?" ||Big Bird, Elmo, Abby, Zoe, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Murray, The Count, Oscar, Baby Bear, Telly, Rosita, Leela, Bob, Luis, Maria, Gordon|
|2010||"Music Deep Inside"||Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Zoe, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Rosita, Cookie Monster, Telly, Baby Bear, Oscar, Murray, The Count, Leela, Alan, Bob, Gordon, Gina, Susan, Gabi, Maria, Luis|
|2011||"Meet Me on Sesame Street" (YouTube)||
Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Murray, The Count, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, Abby, Rosita, Grover, Telly, Baby Bear, Oscar, Maria, Luis, Leela, Alan, Gordon, Bob, Gina
Fraggle Rock float
A Fraggle Rock float appeared in the Parade in 1983  and 1984  The float featured Junior Gorg sitting on top, swinging his club on a set based on the Gorgs' garden. Uncle Traveling Matt hid below Junior's line of sight. Below Junior, the float opened out into a lavish Fraggle caves set, where the main characters played instruments and sang while other Fraggles played around them -- including two Fraggles balanced on a seesaw. The Fraggles performed a short version of the "Fraggle Rock Theme".
Muppet Appearances at the Macy's Parade
Bold text indicates the debut of a new balloon, float or appearance.
- 1974: Sesame Street float 
- 1975: Sesame Street float 
- 1976: Sesame Street float 
- 1977: Kermit the Frog balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1978: Kermit the Frog balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1979: The Electric Mayhem bus , new Sesame Street float , Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1980: Sesame Street float 
- 1981: Kermit the Frog balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1982: Kermit the Frog balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1983: Fraggle Rock float , Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1984: Fraggle Rock float , Kermit the Frog balloon , Sesame Street car 
- 1985: Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1986: Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1987: Jim Henson and Kermit accept the Rollie Award , Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1988: Big Bird balloon
- 1989: Big Bird balloon
- 1990: Kermit and Miss Piggy walk-arounds riding in a Rolls-Royce car , Ernie and Bert walk-arounds sing "Do You Like Me?" , Kermit the Frog balloon , Big Bird balloon , broadcast includes a tribute to Henson 
- 1991: Kermit the Frog balloon 
- 1992: Big Bird balloon 
- 1993: Big Bird balloon 
- 1994: Big Bird balloon 
- 1995: Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1996: Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 1997: Big Bird balloon  Sesame Street float
- 1998: New Sesame Street float , Big Bird balloon 
- 1999: Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 2000: Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float
- 2001: New Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 2002: New Kermit the Frog balloon , Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float
- 2003: Super Grover balloon , Kermit the Frog balloon , Big Bird balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 2004: Kermit the Frog balloon , Super Grover balloon , Sesame Street float 
- 2005: Super Grover balloon , Big Bird balloon , 123 Sesame Street float 
- 2006: Super Grover balloon , Big Bird balloon , 123 Sesame Street float 
- 2007: Abby Cadabby balloon , Kermit the Frog balloon , 123 Sesame Street float 
- 2008: Kermit the Frog rides on the Central Park float and performs "I Believe" , Kermit the Frog balloon , Abby Cadabby balloon , 123 Sesame Street float with Lang Lang 
- 2009: Kermit the Frog balloon, 123 Sesame Street Float, Abby Cadabby Balloon, Kermit rides on the Bountiful Harvest Cornucopia float and perfoms "I Believe" with Tiffany Thornton
- 2010: Kermit the Frog balloon, 123 Sesame Street Float
- 2011: Kermit the Frog balloon, 123 Sesame Street Float
Macy's also carries parade exclusive merchandise every year. An annual item is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Snowglobe, which features representative balloons and floats parading around in a circle. The Big Bird balloon has appeared in the Snowglobe, and the 2009 Snowglobe includes the Abby Cadabby balloon.
Macy's has also released special plush versions of Grover and Kermit.
UNO produced a special "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Edition" of the classic card game; the cards included pictures of the Super Grover balloon (pictured on the fours) and the Kermit the Frog balloon (pictured on the sixes).
Specials including Muppets
On November 21, 1978, WNET (the New York PBS affiliate) aired a special about the Macy's parade, hosted by Kermit and Fozzie Bear. Titled Hip Hip Parade, it featured the duo commenting on the parade, and poking fun at the medium of television.
At 10 pm local time on Thanksgiving 2011, NBC aired a Matt Lauer-hosted retrospective of the event and its broadcasts on NBC, including appearances by past hosts like Betty White (who hosted with Lorne Greene), Katie Couric, and Willard Scott. The special included ample archival footage of past Muppet appearances, including the Kermit and Super Grover balloons, Kermit's 2008 performance, Elmo and Couric talking in the booth, Miss Piggy and Kermit talking on the program, and the 2008 Sesame Street float.
- ↑ Carlo Alban, "I Was Undocumented on "Sesame Street"", Fox News Latino, March 14, 2011.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins, Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
- ↑ "Balloons Over Broadway: Famous Frog Flies for Feast Fete", The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter, vol 1, no 4. 1978.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Kermit Celebrates International Year of the Child", The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter, vol 2, no 2. 1979.
- ↑ "Thanksgiving in N.Y.: Superman a Bust in Holiday Parade", San Francisco Chronicle. November 29, 1985.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! 1985 & 1986", X-Entertainment.com. Thanksgiving 2003.
- ↑ "The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! 1987 Edition!", X-Entertainment.com. November 24, 2004.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Sighs of Relief, Mostly, for High-Flying Stars in Parade", James Barron, The New York Times. November 29, 1991.
- ↑ "Below Those Great, Big Balloons," Peter M. Nichols, The New York Times. November 19, 1995.
- ↑ "Above the Parade: Macy's balloons take the high road on Thanksgiving," Mary Vorobil, Newsday. November 21, 1995.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 "Clear, Cold & Kermit for Big Parade", Ralph R. Ortega and Tamer El-Ghobashy, New York Daily News. November 28, 2002. (The article actually claims that the balloon retired in 1990.)
- ↑ "Peanuts fave leads flotilla: Charlie Brown star of holiday parade", Ralph R. Ortega, New York Daily News. November 27, 2002.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 (YouTube)
- ↑ "Soggy spectacle: Rain keeps crowds away from Macy's annual parade", Mae M. Cheng, Newsday. November 27, 1998.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 "Behind the scenes at the Macy's parade", Seth Stern, The Christian Science Monitor. November 20, 2001.
- ↑ Flying Icons - November 2007, Macy's Inc. press release
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. November 25, 1974. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. November 20, 1978. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. December 6, 1979. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ Panel discussion at Muppets, Music & Magic, as recorded for The MuppetCast episode 20.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 21.2 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. December 1981. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ "Floating Beauty: The 81st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Rides Down Broadway on Theatrical Moving Stages", Macy's press release, November 2007.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. November 1975. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ "Olympic Athlete Hosts Parade", Bruce Jenner, New York Magazine. December 4, 1978.
- ↑ Panel discussion at Muppets, Music & Magic, as recorded for The Muppetcast episode 20.
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 CTW Products Group newsletter, William Whaley. September 1982. Internal document available to the public at the CTW archives, Box 2.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 "The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! 1984", X-entertainment.com.
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 (YouTube)
- ↑ (YouTube)
- ↑ (YouTube)
- ↑ (YouTube)
- ↑ Sesame Street Celebrates a Very Special Thanksgiving - Sesame Workshop
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 "Cartoon Old-Timers and Upstarts are Parade Hits", Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times. November 23, 1984.
- ↑ (YouTube)
- ↑ "Waiting for Bullwinkle and Bird Worthwhile Trial for 2 Children", Lena Williams, The New York Times. November 26, 1976.
- ↑ "Parade's Star Quality Undimmed By Rain or Mickey Mouse Mishap", Maureen Dowd, The New York Times. November 25, 1983.
- ↑ "Four Debuts During a 'Spectacular' Parade", Michael Freitag, The New York Times. November 27, 1987.
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 (YouTube)
- ↑ 39.0 39.1 "Airborne animation: Balloons give a lift to parade", Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today. November 21, 1990.
- ↑ "Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1992: No Rein on This Parade", Michael Moss, Newsday. November 27, 1992.
- ↑ "The 1993 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!", X-entertainment.com.
- ↑ "Thanks for the Parade: Barney and company soar over delighted city", Jesse Mangaliman, Newsday. November 25, 1994.
- ↑ "Children's Events", New York Magazine. November 27, 1995.
- ↑ "Sesame Street nostalgia among teenagers makes pre-school items cool to have and hold", The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). February 15, 1996.
- ↑ "Macy's Parade of Balloons Gets One Thing It Doesn't Need: Wind", Douglas Martin, The New York Times. November 28, 1997.
- ↑ "Parade balloons on tighter leash: Wary of wind, teams will keep 'em in line", Tara George, New York Daily News. November 25, 1998.
- ↑ "Balloons Reined In, but Paradegoers Rained On", Douglas Martin, The New York Times. November 27, 1998.
- ↑ "Preparations for parade an event in itself", San Antonio Express-News. November 7, 1999.
- ↑ "Winds Relent Just Enough to Let the Parade Balloons Float", Winnie Hu, The New York Times. November 24, 2000.
- ↑ "Macy's parade celebrates 75th anniversary ; This year's event is N.Y.'s official 'coming out' since Sept. 11 attacks", Jeanne Jakle, San Antonio Express-News. November 22, 2001.
- ↑ "Fans chilled but thrilled: New and familiar sights at parade", Ellen Yan, Newsday. November 29, 2002.
- ↑ 52.0 52.1 "Above, Familiar Characters; Below, Their Cheering Fans", Robert D. McFadden, The New York Times. November 28, 2003.
- ↑ 53.0 53.1 "64 Degrees, 59 Balloons, and One Perfect Thanksgiving Day Parade", Patrick Healy, The New York Times. November 26, 2004.
- ↑ "No rain on parade - it's pure magic: 2.5 million catch rays and supersized sights", Veronika Belenkaya and Tony Sclafani, New York Daily News. November 26, 2004.
- ↑ 55.0 55.1 55.2 "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" list of events, JimsDeli NYC Guide. November 24, 2005.
- ↑ 56.0 56.1 56.2 "2006 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" press kit, Macysinc.com. November 3, 2006.
- ↑ 57.0 57.1 57.2 "2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" press kit, Macysinc.com. October 16, 2007.
- ↑ 58.0 58.1 58.2 "2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" press kit, Macysinc.com. October 29, 2008.