What It Takes to Put on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, by the Numbers
Let's just say, there's a lot of confetti and a lot of glitter.
The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts viewers from all over the world. Between the larger-than-life balloons and the iconic floats with show-stopping performances, there's much to be accounted for behind the scenes that bring the magic to life each year.
Did you ever want to know how many hours are put into creating the spectacular sight, or how many people take part in the parade? What about the height of the tallest balloon, or how many gallons of paint are used in all of the designs? (BTW, the answer's 240 gallons; along with 375 paintbrushes, in case you were wondering!)
As you prepare your holiday feast, here are some super fun facts to chew on. Keep scrolling for what it takes to put on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, by the numbers!
We have to start with the most important number of them all because the balloons, floats, performances, and magic couldn't unfold if it wasn't for the one and only Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This annual celebration that's famously recognized as the kick-off of the holiday season has been around for quite sometime – and this year marks the parade's 95th year. The first parade took place in 1924, and was cancelled during 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.
2.5 Mile Route
The parade route twists and turns down the streets of Manhattan, starting on West 77th street and Central Park West and ends in front of the iconic Macy's flagship store on 34th street in Herald's Square. In between, the parade passes through Columbus Circle, Central Park South, and 6th Avenue. (Fun Fact: Two to three million people line the streets to get a glimpse of the action, according to NPR.)
3 Hour Broadcast
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be broadcast on NBC and Telemundo starting at 9 a.m. and last until noon in all time zones. It can be streamed on the network's streaming platform, Peacock, as well. The parade will also have three hosts: Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker. (Fun Fact: 2021 will mark Guthrie's 10th year hosting, Kotb's fourth, and Roker's 27th.)
15 Giant Character Helium Balloons
Magic wouldn't be in the air if the balloons didn't fly high in the sky. We're not just talking little latex balloons on a string. We're talking giant balloons that are typically guided by 80 to 100 uniformed handlers! Due to the pandemic, the number of balloon handlers have been cut down – and this year, there will be about 25 people assigned to each balloon, according to the New York Times.
In order to compensate for the lack of people, the "parade's engineering team used the weight of the vehicle plus two 'standard' 175-pound people — a total of 2,985 pounds — to calculate the proper formation of handlers underneath the balloons, Kathleen Wright, the parade's production director, told the outlet.
Fun Fact: This year's tallest balloon is 62 feet high (Diary of A Wimpy Kid), the longest balloon is 72 feet wide (Sinclair's DINO), and the widest balloon is 37 feet thick (Tie: Funko's Grogu and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog).
There may only be 28 floats, but each one is comprised of hundreds of different set pieces and structural elements. The floats don't drive themselves, though, as they are towed by trucks driven by members of New York City's Theatrical Teamsters union, Local 817. The drivers are even supposed to wear jackets and ties for parade duty, according to Car and Driver.
Want to know the biggest float in the parade? The answer is Santa's Sleigh, standing 3.5 stories tall and 60 feet long. (Fun Fact: More than a ½ mile of hand sewn skirt and fringe wrap each float in the parade!)
240 Gallons of Paint
Each and every balloon and float in the parade is hand-painted by members of Macy's Parade Studio team, led by head painter Beth Lucas (who's worked on 30 parades). The studio has "every color in the rainbow plus two," John Piper, VP of the Macy's Parade Studio, told Insider. (Fun Fact: 75 fine art brushes and 300 additional types of brushes are used in the design process.)
200 Pounds of Confetti
Is a parade really considered a parade without confetti? The answer is no – which is why Macy's uses 200 pounds worth of the shimmery, papery, metallic material. Whether you're lined along the streets and it covers your hair, or watching from home as it flies through the air, it's a celebration staple that's sure to put a smile on everyone's face. (Fun Fact: Macy's claims to only use "commercially manufactured, multicolor confetti, not shredded paper," according to The Atlantic.
300 Pounds of Glitter
When it comes to parade necessities, glitter is definitely right up there with confetti! 300 pounds of it is sprinkled onto costumes, floats, and more so they sparkle and shine down the streets of New York. (Fun Fact: A new glitter-covered, Peacock float is ready to take flight down the parade route this year in honor of NBC's streaming platform. It will also livestream the entire parade, giving the audience a bird's-eye view!)
The Thanksgiving Day Parade marks Macy's single biggest volunteer event of the year. More than 4,500 volunteers are credited for keeping the parade alive – from the many handlers that guide the balloons along the route to the variety of themed-clowns that bring the energy early in the morning. (Fun Fact: Clown volunteers have had to enroll in "Clown U," a clown school taught by the Big Apple Circus ahead of the parade!)
50,000+ Hours of Labor
There's a tight deadline that must be met since the annual parade falls on Thanksgiving – which means that the Parade Studio team works around the clock, 365 days a year. The team consists of approximately 27 painters, carpenters, animators, sculptors, welders, scenic/costume designers, electricians and engineers.
Macy's shared that a parade float takes approximately four months to construct – with added time for ideation and design. (Fun Fact: If the team were to start from scratch and build all 28 floats that will appear in the 2021 parade, it would take eight years!)
50 Million+ Television Viewers
Across streaming and broadcast, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade draws in over 50 million viewers – making it one of the nation's largest viewed televised event annually. Last year, "It was the most watched entertainment telecast on any network since the Oscars in February," The Hollywood Reporter noted. (Fun Fact: NBC has been the official national broadcast partner for 69 years, since 1952.)