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One of the must-watch events of Thanksgiving Day, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (often shortened down to simply the "Macy's Day Parade"; founded as the "Macy's Christmas Parade" despite the date) is held in New York City every Thanksgiving, presented by the department store Macy's (duh); the NYC trek always ends in front of their 34th street location. Founded in 1924, it's one of the oldest Thanksgiving parades in Americanote . Boasting a barrage of spectacularly designed floats and balloons, spiced with dance groups, marching bands and appearances from celebrities, the parade ends with the arrival of Santa Claus and is considered by many to be the official start of the holiday season.


In The Roaring '20s, many of the Macy's employees were first-generation immigrants, who wanted to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving with a big street party like the ones they had in their native countries. And thus, the Macy's Christmas Parade (so named despite being held on Thanksgiving Day) was born. While there were still floats and clowns, the first few parades didn't have any balloons — their spot in the parade was taken by live animals, borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The balloons were only brought in because the animals being used in the parade included lions and tigers, which were scaring children along the route.

The years have brought many changes — for example, the parade didn't get any Celebrity Endorsement until Harpo Marx appeared sometime during The Great Depression. Hard to believe today, since the parade now runs on star power as diverse as Kiss, Meghan Trainor and Cicely Tyson. As time went on, the floats became more and more elaborate (Cracker Jack's 2014 livecam-featuring float and the specially-designed float for Cirque du Soleil are the most impressive by far) and along with the balloons, designing and creating them have grown to become an art form. And as hard to believe as it is now, the parade wasn't particularly well-known outside NYC until Miracle on 34th Street boosted the parade's reputation as it was recovering from its WWII-induced hiatus.


From the Turn of the Millennium onwards the parade has increasingly embraced the presence of social media, including a 2006-07 poll for viewers' favorite floats and balloons on the NBCUniversal-owned iVillage, utilization of the Shazam and Zeebox (now Beamly) apps, and a brief stint with iTunes in 2012. Despite all this, they haven't lost touch with their roots, and are known to acknowledge it during the parade itself, most often during milestone celebrations; in conjunction with that they'll usually bring out a recreation of a long-retired balloon (though nowadays this will mostly be because said balloon will be ported to Universal Orlando the following month for the Macy's Holiday Paradenote , making for a Negated Moment of Awesome on the part of NBCUniversal).

What's also worth noting is that while it has featured particularly egregious Enforced Plugging and Product Placement, especially from The '80s onwards, the parade (along with the older Gimbels/Ikea/Dunkin' Donuts parade, though it's affectionately referred to as simply "The Philly Parade") could be the Ur-Example/Trope Maker/Trope Codifier for Trope Co. Trope of the Week. And while at least 90% of modern usage of this trope is for egregiously gratituous Product Placement (often during sports programs), the Macy's Parade has been run mostly by Macy's employees since day 1. Even the celebrities that appear have to become Macy's employees just for the week.

The parade can be viewed in person along the parade route, which spans from Central Park West to the Macy's store on 34th Street. The store has special seating that can only be obtained through contests and the like. For those who can't make it, NBC has broadcast the parade annually since 1952 to 50 million viewers worldwide, while CBS also runs their own (rather lacking) coverage from the middle of the parade route (in fact, the CBS coverage was a factor in the parade's decision to change the route so they can keep it away from their rival). Both networks provide color commentary from their morning show hosts, though NBC's coverage mainly provided by Today's tag team is more interesting (and rather polarizing depending on your opinion of the hosts) to experience. Meanwhile, CBS' coverage leaves out all the good bits (namely the music/Broadway performances) while substituting their own in the form of extra padding, such as holiday recipes and extended interviews as well as their own music/Broadway performances.

Official site. More detailed info can be found, as always, on That Other Wiki here. The parade's fascinating history, along with some of the more interesting bits, was also acknowledged by NBC in a prime-time special aired in conjunction with its 85th anniversary in 2011, and that has been uploaded in its entirety on YouTube.

Tropes seen in this parade include:

  • Acrofatic: A few examples; Nell Carter's 1986 performance of "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" comes to mind. X-Entertainment described her act as "running and hopping around as if she was a scant 200 pounds."
  • Actor Allusion: When the Spider-Man balloon was being introduced in 1997, they mentioned that Stan Lee was turning 75 that year. Willard Scott made a joke about this, saying "25 more years and you're mine, guy!" He made a similar remark on Smokey Bear's 50th anniversary in 1993. In fact, he's fond of referencing his "wishing happy birthday to centenarians" gimmick any chance he'll get — in 1996 Katie noted that this year marked Jean McFaddin's 20th anniversary as the parade's executive director. Willard's response? "80 more years and I can wish her a happy 100th birthday!"
    • When they had the Ronald McDonald balloon when Willard was hosting, he almost always took time to mention that he originated the Ronald character. In 1993, Katie showed off a framed picture of Willard as Ronald. In 2004 Katie gave this a Shout-Out by introducing the new Ronald balloon with "Who's America's favorite clown? No, not Willard."
      • Even before they had the balloon, Willard couldn't resist mentioning this fact — on Today with the McDonald's All-American High School Band the day before Thanksgiving 1985, he preceded his interview with two band members with "Being an old Ronald McDonald, I feel pretty much at home."
      • He also mentioned having been Bozo the Clown at least once.note 
      • And took an opportunity to acknowledge his career as a radio DJ during The '50s while introducing a performance from the off-Broadway Jukebox Musical Forever Plaid.
      • 1988 had Willard co-host the parade with Sandy Duncan, star of The Hogan Family, a show on which Willard had made a few guest appearances (as "Mr. Poole"). He wore the square dancing outfit he was wearing during the Very Special Episode "Burned Out", and was quick to point this out to Sandy towards the beginning of the parade.
    • During the lead-in to one of Al Roker's interviews, Katie Couric paraphrased Al's Catch-Phrase on Today (i.e. "what's happening in his neck of the woods").
      • He actually said this one year after interviewing band members. In this case it was more like "Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods... SPONGEBOB!!" (The SpongeBob SquarePants balloon was right behind the band he was interviewing)
    • In 2003, while Katie and Matt were introducing the Fred Astaire-inspired musical Never Gonna Dance, this occured:
    Katie: Before there was Matt and Katie, even Ricky and Lucy...
    Matt: There was Bryant and Katie.note 
    (cue Katie corpsing)
  • Adorkable: Willard is overly quirky on Today, and looks naive enough to go with it, but when he hosted the parade there were moments when he cranked the adorkableness Up to Eleven, such as quoting old movies and cartoons, dancing with the Rockettes, failing at magic, joking about his weight, and kissing his female cohost. His almost endless smiling tips him towards full-blown Moe territory.
  • All-Star Cast: Goes without saying.
  • And the Rest: Since 2013, the balloons were demoted to this status during the opening parade lineup announcement on NBC's broadcast, favoring all the celebrity guests and musical acts over the balloons.
    • The balloons and floats were Screwed by the Network in 2018, with no mention at all during the opening lineup.
  • Ascended Fanboy: A good chunk of the participants grew up watching the parade as children, and consider hosting/performing in the parade as one of their crowning moments. Willard Scott is a good example, as even after he stopped cohosting in 1997 he appeared at least twice more as a participant, in 2001 and 2007, and wrote the foreword for Life magazine's tribute to the parade's 75th year. He even had a lampshaded Ascended Fanboy moment within the parade when he interviewed Bob Hope and his wife, calling it one of the highlights of his career.
  • Award-Bait Song: There's been a few written for the parade over the past 15 or so years, mostly co-written by William Schermerhorn. One of the most popular examples is "I Believe" from the 2008 parade, performed by Kermit the Frog and Camp Broadway. The year after its debut, "I Believe" also received both a Triumphant Reprise during Santa's arrival (which ended every parade since then, 2012 excepted, before a new closing theme entitled "Here Comes Santa Claus"note  was introduced for 2014) and a duet version with Kermit and Tiffany Thornton; the latter was released on iTunes and premiered on Radio Disney during the 2009 holiday season.
    • Other Award Bait examples through the years include "Just Beyond The Dream" (1999, performed by Lillias White), "Free To Dream" (2004, Deborah Voigt), "My Gift Of Thanks" (2005, co-writer Michael Feinstein), "With You I'm Home" (2009, Jane Krakowski) and "Yes, Virginia" (2010, Ann Hampton Calloway).
    • The "global anthem" Just Wave Hello (performed by Charlotte Church) was also performed in 1999 and hits all the right notes for this trope. Similarly, LeAnn Rimes appeared in 2005 to perform "Remember When", the theme for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, as part of a special segment celebrating said anniversary.
    • Prior to all of those, several performers sang old songs rearranged in this manner. Andrea McArdle's version of "Blue Skies" from 1981 comes to mind fairly quickly.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: In the first parade, according to That Other Wiki, Santa's arrival at Macy's was punctuated with him being crowned "King of the Kiddies".
  • Awful Wedded Life: Willard made a joke about this in '96; when Katie mentioned that the Clifford the Big Red Dog balloon is kept on a 65-foot-long leash, he made this quip: "That's the way Mary takes care of me." Katie's reply: "She keeps you on a shorter one, doesn't she?" (It should be noted that Mary and Willard did love each other dearly despite squabbling a lot during the first few years of their marriage; when she died of breast cancer in 2002 Willard confirmed during a Larry King interview that he cried inconsolably for months.)
  • Big Applesauce
  • Bowdlerize: The Turn of the Millennium seemed to bring in songs with more... questionable content, which would almost always be switched out for more G-rated lines, to varying results. Keri Hilson's performance of "Pretty Girl Rock" had some lyrics censored with an echo of the preceding line, but the line "If you touch it [her "dairy"] I'm very" was kept intact (with the context removed), resulting in an odd case of *Bleep*-dammit!.
  • Breakaway Pop Hit: The duet version of "I Believe" described under Award-Bait Song could qualify, as many Radio Disney listeners and/or impulse iTunes buyers can enjoy it without realizing it was written as a Kermit solo for the Macy's Parade.
  • Brick Joke: A weird example. At one point when they had Willard hosting (around 1990), the Homewood Patriot Marching Band introduced him with giant photos of his face. Years later, in 1995, the same band (which happened to be leading the parade that year) used those same photos with added decal on the backs, but made sure not to reveal the side featuring Willard's face until the climax of their performance. His reaction is priceless.
  • The Cast Showoff: Especially in the 80's and 90's, there was a crapload of celebrities, many of whom were from NBC shows, who wanted all 50 million TV viewers to know that they could sing. Examples include but are not limited to Kelsey Grammer, Alaina Reed, Nell Carter, and Bert Parks. Until around 2000 every Miss America also got to sing a song when they appeared. Even the hosts got in on the action — just ask Mary Hart, Phylicia Rashad and Florence Henderson. Resulted in a Crowning Moment of Funny in the 85th anniversary special when Florence said that Matt Lauer should go up on a float and sing... followed by a VO of Matt saying "Sorry Florence, I don't think that's going to happen."
    • And it's not just limited to singing, either. Harry Anderson of Night Court fame showed off by doing magic — and this was back in 1988. One of the Miss Americas also did piano accompaniment for an armed force choir back in 1990.
  • Celebrity Star
  • Colbert Bump: Miracle on 34th Street boosted the parade's popularity all the way back in 1947.
  • Comically Missing the Point: This 2004 promo teasing the premiere of the M&M's balloon in 2004 (which also doubles as an Actor Allusion considering that Yellow is voiced by Law & Order semi-regular J.K. Simmons):
    Red: Coming up next, the new Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon of everyone's favorite celebrities!
    Yellow: Oh boy! A Law & Order balloon?!
    Red: (beat, annoyed) I was talking about us.
    Yellow: (beat) We're gonna be on Law & Order?
    • Within the parade itself, there was this memorable introduction to the Garfield balloon from 1996:
    Katie: Hey Willard, guess who I see floating down the street... here's a hint: he's fat, lazy and has a major attitude.
    Willard: That sounds like my agent... I didn't know he was gonna be in this parade!
    • In 1980, Bryant Gumbel, after telling host Ed McMahon that the parade won an Emmy the previous year, presented Ed with his own "Emmy" — actually a rolled-up piece of paper. Ed then rewarded Bryant with another "Emmy", this one tied with a red ribbon.
    Platypus Comix: Someone should tell these nitwits the truth, but....they're so happy, why spoil it?
  • Contest Winner Cameo: 2011 had an elf design contest, where the winner would be immortalized as a balloon in the parade. The winner was university student Keith Lapnig, whose design, "Gazer", was loosely based on an event in Rolland Macy's life — specifically, the one that led to Macy's having a star as their logo (Macy was lost at sea, and used the north star to get back safely to his homeland).
    • 2004 had another one sponsored by Delta Airlines, where kids could submit their own design to be immortalized as a parade balloon. The winner was Alexandra Morra, a 7 year old from California, who drew a turkey with feathers modeled after flags of various nations. As the hosts noted, this turkey "joins the dove today as a symbol of world peace".
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Guaranteed in any parade held during a Milestone Celebration, but displayed most blatantly in the 2001 and 2011 parades, both of which had floats featuring costumed versions of characters who had appeared as balloons in previous years.
  • Corpsing: Happens a lot when the hosts go off-script or something funny happens. One notable example happened in the 2003 parade — when Hilary Duff's float arrived in Herald Square, Katie Couric's daughter showed up on the screen. Judging from her reaction, she was quite surprised to see this, and is heard giggling as she introduces Duff's song.
    • Happened constantly when Katie cohosted with Willard Scott from 1991-97, in no small part due to Willard's constantly veering off-script.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Al Roker (then an employee of NYC's WNBC station) makes a brief appearance along with two other WNBC employeesnote  in the 1988 parade, though he wouldn't become a cohost until 1995 (and wouldn't get a larger role in anything ever until he largely usurped Willard Scott's role as weatherman on Today about a year later).
    • Willard also helped interview performers in 1982 and 1983, before officially taking the host reigns from Pat Sajak in 1987.
    • In 1980, several people in Smurf costumes were spotted, though their Saturday morning cartoon series (on NBC) wouldn't start until the next year. While reviewing that year's parade, Peter from Platypus Comix was confused to see them, and wondered if they were famous in America at that point.
    • The first appearance of Garfield in the parade was on the America's Comic Stars float in 1983. The next year, a Garfield balloon was introduced.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pre-1994 parades have a different feel than the post-1994 ones. There's a reason for that: both eras were under the supervision of two different producers (Dick Schneider and Brad Lachman respectively). To drive the point home, here are two different clips of the same marching band, from before and after 1994 respectively. (This example could be justified since the band's uniforms were modified during the 20-year interval between both appearances.)
    • The 1994 parade is also rather odd to watch, as it was the first one directed by Gary Halvorson and not Dick Schneider. As a result, some of Schneider's vision slipped through into the parade, such as the Show Boat number which was performed on a balcony overlooking Times Square. Al wasn't present as well, and Willard got the job of interviewing people at the launch site. The current booth also wasn't brought in yet, and Willard and Katie occasionally wore hats like the pre-1994 parades. One YouTube comment described it as "the parade's awkward middle-school yearbook photo".
    • For over 40 years the musical director for the parade was Milton DeLugg (also the musical director for Santa Claus Conquers the Martians). By 2014, the 96-year-old parade veteran had retired and all of his musical cues were replaced by new ones commissioned by Younger and Hipper composer Ray Chew.
    • For the parade itself, it was originally called the "Macy's Christmas Parade" and didn't have any balloons at first — instead they walked live animals through the streets. This practice went out the window because among the animals were lions and bears, which were scaring the children. The balloons weren't introduced until 1927, and they themselves came with some early installment weirdness: at the end of the parade, the balloons would be released into the sky (!). The first year they did this, the balloons exploded, so they redesigned them to float in the atmosphere for at least a while. They also had a return address so that whoever found them would be rewarded with $25 — perhaps they went a bit too whimsical on that onenote . The balloon-releasing practice was discontinued in 1933.
  • Enforced Plug: Happens a lot with NBC shows. During the hour leading up to the parade, Al Roker will frequently interview people from other NBC Universal productions, from King Kong (2005) to Heroes. Since The '80s the stars of these shows would often actually appear in the parade on floats, such as Lea Thompson on the Undersea Adventure falloonnote  and several actors from Saved by the Bell on the Ice Castle float. On at least one occasion the stars actually sang — just ask Jane Krakowski in 2009, Phylicia Rashad in 1985, Kim Fields and Nancy McKeon in 1981, Alan Rachins in 1989...
    • And ever since the National Dog Show started airing on the channel in 2002, they'll always throw in at least one plug for that since it airs right after the parade.
    • Every time an Animal Planet float appeared in the parade, the hosts would state that they enjoy The Planet's Funniest Animals, mainly because the parade's executive producer, Brad Lachman, also produced that show.
  • Epic Fail: There were many lip-syncing failures over the years, but quite possibly the most hilarious was at the beginning of Bill and Susan Hayes' song in 1981. They actually had to start over the song so Bill and Susan could get back on track. View the entire thing here.
  • Fake American: Bob Hope's status as this made for an amusing moment in the 2003 parade (the first to be held after he passed away that July). On the Statue of Liberty float, the USO Troupe of Metropolitan New York and Camp Broadway performed the lavish, patriotic-sounding anthem "When Hope Was There", with lyrics such as "From New York to California, Hope was the nation's cornerstone" and "Side by side he stood by us in the grand USA" and a finale involving Lady Liberty's torch spewing firecrackers... and after the song was done the hosts cleared up that Hope was actually born in England, though this was somewhat foreshadowed during the song's intro as Katie stated that Lady Liberty was "probably the first symbol [Hope] saw of his adopted country".
  • Funny Background Event: This.
  • Guest Strip: Starting in 2005, Macy's started to get various designers to create one-off balloons. The first balloon in their "Blue Sky Gallery" was a Humpty Dumpty balloon by Tom Otterness. Other members of the "Blue Sky Gallery" include Jeff Koons, Keith Haring (posthumously; the balloon infamously hit the NBC broadcast booth), KAWS, Takashi Murakami, and Tim Burton.
  • Hi, Mom!: A speech balloon of this sort was superimposed over the end of the Rockettes' performance in 1981. Also, in 1989, when the Rockettes leave two by two at the end of their song, one of them can clearly be heard saying "I LOVE YOU MOMMY!"
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Peter Cetera sported one when he appeared as a solo artist in 2004.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "The joker is MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!note "
    • Diana DeGarmo also did this at the end of her performance of the original song "Pharaoh Strut" in 2006.
    • A lot of the parade's Broadway performances do this, such as The Color Purple and Billy Elliot.
    • Arguably, this has become a lot less prominent by The New '10s (outside of the Broadway performances, naturally), due to the parade's shift to more popular music.
  • In Memoriam: Maureen O'Hara of Miracle on 34th Street fame got a shout-out in the 2015 parade, the first to be held after she died. She played the parade director in that film.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Justified, the parades are specifically designed to be broadcast once on Thanksgiving Day morning and then shoved away into the archives, only to be used in news programs and retrospectivesnote . That doesn't make certain (older) parades any less hard to find though. As of June 2015, only two pre-2002 parades can be found in full on YouTube (the 1981 and 1996 ones, to be exact). If you want to see any other parades from before 2003, you'll have to settle for some brief YouTube clips or go to a video trading website. As of October 2015 most of the parades from 1981 to today can be found here.
    • Since 1970's VHS recordings are scarce (with the possible exception of The Star Wars Holiday Special), most if not all of the parades from that era are MIA (the later 70's recordings would have better luck since people started getting into recording onto VHS around this time, but so far no bootlegs have circulated).
    • Even better, the uninterrupted version of the 1979 parade. As described under Mood Whiplash the broadcast was interrupted for about 17 minutes for a news report, but it's never been made clear whether it was the East Coast or West Coast airing that was interrupted.
    • Of all the post-1980 Macy's Parades, the 1982 parade is the only one that isn't being widely circulated via bootlegs. Only about three clips can be found of it on YouTube, and several other clips can be found in the 85th anniversary special linked under Milestone Celebration below. The 1982 parade is especially notable as according to Sesame Street: 40 Years of Life on the Street, that show's appearance that year marked the last public appearance of Will Lee (Mr. Hooper). He would pass away that December. His fellow cast members have emotionally recalled how brave he looked that day.
    • The most commonly circulated version of the 1980 parade lasts two hours and is missing both the first and last 30 minutes or so of the parade. This is the version currently on YouTube and also owned by Peter Paltridge, owner of Platypus Comix (who reviewed it back in 2011). A full three-hour version is supposedly circulating as well, but we'd rather not go into detail there.
    • Bizarrely averted with the 1959 parade, which still survives and was uploaded onto Vimeo in 2012.
    • In 2012, actress Adrienne Warren recorded a William Schermerhorn composition called "Kickin' It" for a college precision dance group called the Texas State University Strutters. According to Matt, the song was released on iTunes that year as part of a promotion. Good luck finding the studio version now, as the link died out shortly after the parade was broadcast.
  • Let There Be Snow: A truly epic example happened in 1989, where the parade marched through 20 feet of it! (And it hadn't snowed on Thanksgiving for 100 years before that.) 2014 had a few flurries here and there, but nothing big.
  • Like a Son to Me: Willard called Katie "the son [he] always wanted" during the 1991 intro. Since this is Willard we're talking about, he could have said this as a joke. Naturally, Katie responded by punching him in the gut.
  • Long-Runners: It's been going since 1924, with a three-year hiatus during the war years. It's been broadcast on radio since the parade resumed from said hiatus in 1945, and NBC has shown it on television since 1952. Meanwhile, CBS has been running their own counter-footage for at least 30 years as of 2014 (the earliest known YouTube footage of their exploitsnote  is dated 1984; bits of Larry Hagman and Linda Gray hosting from the previous year can be found as well).
    • In terms of balloons, the longest lasting singular balloons are the Happy Dragon (24 years), and Bullwinkle (23), while the most recurring character is Snoopy (37 appearances across seven balloons).
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Moreso in The '80s and very early Nineties than any other year.
  • Merry Christmas in Gotham: Literally! With The Joker.
  • Milestone Celebration: Any special-numbered parade (60th, 65th, 70th, etc.) will always go out of their way to remind you of the anniversary. The 65th parade reintroduced the classic Linus the Lionhearted and Happy Dragon balloons, while the 70th parade brought in a recreation of their iconic Harold the Fireman balloon. The 80th parade had pieces of balloon fabric stationed in Macy's stores, where shoppers were invited to dip their hands in paint and put a handprint on the fabric; the pieces were assembled into two balloons that were flown on Thanksgiving Day. For the 85th, a primetime special was created, featuring rare footage and new interviews; this can be found on YouTube in its entirety here.
  • Mockbuster: The CBS version.
  • Mood Dissonance: Happens often. For instance, the Bullwinkle balloon leering behind a Cinderella-themed float in 1981. As Platypus Comix puts it:
    "We're about to experience one of those real special moments in the parade, a moment of pure enchantment and fantasy." Ed hypes up a Cinderella-based float with these words, and they might have fit well if not for the massive, googly-eyed Bullwinkle balloon leering behind the singers and destroying all dignity completely.
  • Mood Whiplash: According to the comprehensive 2004 book also titled Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 1979 parade was interrupted for approximately 17 minutes to report that 13 Americans held in Iran were being released. This was the only such interruption in the parade's history and could be the reason why this year's parade isn't widely circulated.
    • This has been known to happen in the commercial breaks as well. Sometimes the last slot(s) in the commercial break will be filled with an ad for a more dramatic NBC fare like Believe, The Blacklist and Chicago Fire, a PSA for something like St. Jude's Hospital, and/or something just melancholic. Back from commercial, though, and they hit us with a high-energy dance group/cheerleaders, an upbeat and poppy song from whoever's popular at the time, a troupe of tap-dancing Christmas trees, or the Power Rangers. However, this varies depending on which NBC affilate you're watching it from, as they sometimes overwrite ads to air local promos/promos for other networks.
  • Muppet Cameo: Sesame Street has had a float in the parade every year since 1974, to the point where Platypus Comix called their presence "one tradition even more ironclad than the Robot Turkey". Kermit and Big Bird were twice represented with balloons, while Super Grover and Abby Cadabby also got one each. The "Classic Muppets" also appeared several times, starting in 1979 — while many people recall seeing them on TV that day, the actual footage has yet to make it to YouTube — and Kermit made a few solo appearances. This link has a comprehensive list of nearly all of the Muppet appearances.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Starting in 1963, all balloons were based off of existing properties—except for the Happy Dragon, who survived up until 1981.
  • Narm Charm: The parades from The '80s and earlier in The '90s were chock full of this.
  • Nice Hat: During the first few years Willard hosted (before 1995), literally every time they went to him he would be wearing one of these, and they would always be thematically related to whatever would come up next (i.e. a Woodstock hat for the Peanuts float, or a marching band hat for...well, the marching bands). This spread to his cohosts Deborah Norville and Katie Couric, who would also periodically wear hats.
    X Entertainment: At first, the hats are basically normal. They're not hats you'd buy, but they're hats you'd try on whenever out with some giddy friends and a Polaroid camera. Soon, Willard plows through the entire run of basically normal hats, forced to wear things like garbage bags and plastic prop seagulls just to keep the gag going. Pestilent but not without purpose, Willard's hilarious hat gag is the thread that binds the many unrelated events and celebrity appearance of this, the 61st annual Macy's Thanksgiving Dablah blah blah.
    • 80's pop singer Debbie Gibson also sported an impressive one when she appeared to sing a remixed version of her hit "Only In My Dreams" in 1997.
  • Non-Ironic Clown
  • Nude-Colored Clothes: Many Broadway and dance performers sport these to keep from both freezing and looking incredibly tacky.
  • One Head Taller: 6'3" Willard Scott and former cohosts Sandy Duncan (5'4½") and Katie Couric (5'4"). Deborah Norville barely fits into this, being 5'8". This could also be said for one-year cohost Mary Hart.
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: The lead-in to the rickroll (provided by characters from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) went on for so long that it would have been perfectly reasonable to turn to another show and miss the payoff completely.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Given its Memetic Mutation status, the live Rickroll outshined almost everything in the 2008 parade, let alone the impressiveness of the float Astley performed on.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: The 1997 parade is better remembered for an incident where a balloon of The Cat in the Hat blew into a lamppost and critically injured a spectator, leaving her in a coma for a month.
    • Similarly, the 2005 parade is remembered for the M&M's balloon accident that injured two sisters.
    • The SeaWorld float got hit with this in its debut year from animal rights activists, due to the film Blackfish (which paints the theme park in a negative light) having come out in the same year.
    • In 2014, a group of Ferguson protesters attempted to block the parade route, causing seven people to get arrested.
  • Padding: CBS' coverage is almost entirely this, especially after it dropped the "All-American Thanksgiving" name and surrounding footage and focused exclusively on the New York parade. Outside of lengthy interviews and fleeting footage of the parade itself, they spend much of the parade spotlighting viewer-submitted photos, holiday recipes and prerecorded musical performances.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: As a result of Willard's Precocious Crush on her, Mary Hart put on some Groucho glasses and convinced him that she was another Guest Host in 1987.
  • Previously On: In 1981, the first time Ed McMahon ran into the animated Strawberry Shortcake, she asked if she could see the previous year's parade. Ed agreed, cuing a timelapsed video of an earlier parade (avid watchers would notice that it actually wasn't the 1980 parade, but rather the 1977 paradenote ).
  • Product Placement: All over the place.
    • A ubiquitous one — unlike the Tournament Of Roses Parade which uses self-propelled floats, these floats are pulled by stock trucks with the manufacturer's logo plastered in extra-wide lettering on the windshield band.
  • Pun: The hosts always drop these when describing floats and balloons. Sometimes they dip into a Hurricane of Puns, such as when they were discussing the Snowbo balloonicle in 2007.
  • Real-Life Relative: Some of the hosts' children have cameoed on the floats on occasion. The video linked under Corpsing has Katie's younger daughter appear on a "Malt Shop" float with Hilary Duff in 2003. Al's daughter also appeared during the 2008 parade on Santa's sleigh, and in 2009 on Andrea Bocelli's float. This will usually be lampshaded on-air by the hosts saying something like "Who is that cute little girl?" and/or the camera frequently cutting to said relative. They've appeared in the audience at some points as well: in 1994 Willard's granddaughter was shown waving at the camera, which stayed on her for about 15 seconds.
  • Record Needle Scratch: Happened in the infamous Rickroll segment in 2008, as well as a 2010 Despicable Me-inspired segment.
  • Remake Cameo: Happens several times, especially since the aughts, but definitely guaranteed during any Milestone Celebration.
  • Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: At least since Al started cohosting in 1995, they've done this, and at least since 2003 they've had some help from special groups, such as Girl Scouts, the Special Olympics, young people who had a parent serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and an all-female group of engineers who used one of their robots to cut the ribbon. The 2014 parade had some help from a little league team called the Taney Dragons.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: In 1981, Ed McMahon interacted with an animated Strawberry Shortcake at various points. Unfortunately (at a different point in the parade than the linked video), someone walked where they shouldn't have and this happened.
  • Rule of Three: Nowadays, the average balloon or float has a lifespan of three consecutive appearances.
    • The three elf balloons that have heralded Santa's arrival since 2004.
    • And of course, since Al started hosting in 1995 there have been three hosts for the NBC coverage.
  • Santa Claus: Has the duty of ending every single parade since day 1, in recent years with Mrs. Claus. (In 1933, he actually led the parade... then who ended the parade that year?)
  • Sensory Abuse: X-Entertainment thought this of the Dance Club Barbie segment in 1989, which was filled with dizzying mini-screens.
    The entire screen swarms with terrible special effects throughout the song number, with everything from four dust-trailing video screens floating around to fourteen dust-trailing video screens floating around. Total epilepsy stuff. By the time they tried to give each of the two dozen dancing extras their own star wipes, my eyes were as black as Ken's heart when he dumped the bitch in `04.
  • The Show Must Go On: Averted from 1942-1944 due to World War II — the parade was cancelled during those years because the balloon fabric was being used to protect the soldiers. (This is the reason why the parade celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2011 despite having started in 1924.)
    • Played straight in 1963 and 2001 — see Very Special Episode below.
    • Other semi-straight examples: In 1971, the parade went on without a hitch, but the winds were so bad that the balloons had to sit out the yearnote . History almost repeated in 1997 and 2013 — in 1997 they went ahead with the balloons anyway despite the winds; this led to several injuries and new safety measures introduced the next year. 2013 had people debating whether or not the balloons would fly, and thankfully, they did.
      • A 1958 helium shortage led to the balloons getting carried by cranes.
  • Special Effect Failure: In 1981 — see Roger Rabbit Effect.
  • Spin-Off: The Macy's Holiday Parade in Universal Orlando, which has run from early December to New Year's Day since 2002.
    • An odd example would be the "Celebrate the Season" parade in Pittsburgh, which is held two days after Thanksgiving. It was founded in 1980 as a standalone event, but Macy's sponsored it from 2006 (when it merged with the local department store Kaufmann's) to 2013. For several years it was even known as the "My Macy's Holiday Parade".
  • Spiritual Successor: The Macy's Great American Marching Band, which debuted in 2006, is this to the McDonald's All-American High School Band, which performed from 1966note  to 1993, before McDonald's decided that they should stick to fast food.
  • Sweeps: Since Thanksgiving falls in November every year, it ties in with this period.
  • Take That!: ALF introduced a commercial break in 1989 like so: "Country singer Clint Black, comedian Buddy Hackett, and [referring to parade's the signature turkey float] the biggest turkey you ever saw... next to Ishtar." Doubles as a Parental Bonus.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: The Willard/Katie parades mainly fell into this category, no doubt due to their chemistry. There was also that one time where Willard hosted a parade with Sandy Duncan.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: An interesting case — while advertisements for the parade are literally just what you'd expect, the website and press releases tend to let out a few would-be surprises.
    • The effect of the Rickroll was weakened somewhat due to the intro stating Rick Astley would be making a guest appearance. Subverted since Astley's name did not appear anywhere in the promotional materials, such as the New York Daily News' annual guide to the parade. American Authors and both of Miranda Cosgrove's appearances (among others) got the same treatment.
    • That same year, the Beethoven balloon (which hadn't appeared for over 10 years at that point) was listed among the balloons to appear that year. Since he didn't have a "new" graphic beside the name on the official site, there was a bit of confusion.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: For the network as a whole.
    • Every Thanksgiving morning, NBC juggernaut Today heavily focuses on the parade, including interviews with some of the performers, spotlights on at least one new balloon being featured, and raw footage of the parade being prepared. This 1995 video shows most if not all of a typical Thanksgiving Episode of Today. (A word of warning: it'll be best if you stop watching 46 minutes into the video, unless you want to watch someone channel surfing and several minutes of the movie Pride of the Yankees.)
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Many have elicited this reaction over the years as floats and balloons come and go. There was also a small yet visible Internet Backdraft when the timeless Milton DeLugg score (which had been in use since The '60s) was abruptly retired for cheesy synth music in 2014. The fact that the DeLugg music hasn't gotten a commercial release note  only adds insult to injury.
  • Trope Co. Trope of the Week: The earliest known instance of this trope, possibly even the Trope Maker/Trope Codifier.
    • Even within that there's the Macy's Great American Marching Band. There's also that band's predecessor, the McDonald's All-American High School Band. On at least one occasion, they were credited as "McDonald's High School", potentially sending the wrong messages, as this quote proves:
    Peter Paltridge: They captioned this as "McDonalds High School," which made me think "They had their own high school? Like....yellow paint everywhere, Ronald on video screens indoctrinating the students, Grimace dancing on the football field, cheerleaders singing whatever theme song they had at the time, and chemistry experiments with the acidity of their sodas?" No, not really.
  • Tuckerization: The Marion-Carole showboat, which debuted in 2002, is named for Rolland H. Macy's two daughters.
  • Two Decades Behind: For some reason, the Sesame Street float was still being accompanied with the 1990's "hip hop" credits music even after it was phased out in 2007. They've since fixed this though; by 2014 they were using the more modern arrangement of the theme, though it's a bit hard to tell since both versions of the theme are in the same key and (almost) the same temponote 
    • Justified with the Pikachu balloon, which was underscored with an instrumental version of the anime's first American opening (you know, the one that goes "I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was") since the first Pikachu balloon was introduced in 2001 (they switched to an adapted version of the Pokémon Red and Blue theme music when Ray Chew took on the music director helm in 2014). This can easily be dismissed since the anime theme is known as THE defining theme for the entire show.
    • A similar situation to Pikachu happened with the SpongeBob balloon, only the song selection is in the opposite order. When the yellow sponge's first balloon started flying in 2004, it was underscored by an instrumental version of the F.U.N Songnote 
  • Unexpected Character: The parade usually goes for innocent, family friendly characters, making it quite the surprise when Goku got a balloon to advertise the release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • Look up the parade from any given year, and you'll see a flood of stuff that was popular and/or heavily hyped during November of whatever year (including new release movies). This is especially true if the parade is viewed with its original commercials.
    • Amusingly, the older parades had more of this, mainly since a good number of the balloons being used were of old chestnuts that were hardly seen in any new productions at the time like Underdog and Bullwinkle.[[note]]For example, in 1981, Bullwinkle made his 21st appearance, Underdog his 17th[[note]]
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: Happens all the time on websites like the Macy's Parade Wikia, In the last days of 2014 and into the first days of 2015, posts on the as well as a few YouTube videos proclaimed that the Garfield balloon was to return in that year's parade. Keep in mind that this was about two months after Thanksgiving of 2014 (in other words, 2015's parade was in pre-pre-production), and details of the forthcoming edition are more likely to show up sometime in September (for the floats/balloons), with participating celebrities announced in the first few days of November. This has happened multiple times over the course of several years, with skeets posting their dream lineups onto Wikipedia and similar sites. It had stopped on the Wiki after it went though new ownership in 2016, and users making up fake balloons moved on to another Wiki to continue it all.
  • Very Special Episode: The 75th anniversary parade in 2001 was doubly special, as in addition to hitting the three-quarter-century mark it was the first parade after the attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia (both of which happened just over two months before) and the parade's "coming out" after the tragedies. Before that, in 1963, the parade was held one week after the Kennedy assassination, prompting a touching tribute to the president.
    • While the 2003 parade didn't have much to make it "very special", there was at least one moment that certainly fit this trope. The death of Bob Hope several months beforehand prompted the parade to produce a lavish Award-Bait Song in his honor entitled "When Hope Was There". In addition, Hope's widow Dolores and daughter Linda helped set up a scholarship for one band member that year (and since then, presented every year) who represented Hope's values of talent, good deeds and a sense of humor. The first recipient of the scholarship was a drummer for Pulaski High School's (Wisconsin) band, which just so happened to be the first one to appear that year.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: During The '80s and The '90s, there were a surprising number of incidents involving balloons running into things. If certain balloons couldn't make it to Herald Square, they would throw on footage of the balloon from a previous parade (or if there wasn't any, flight test footage from the week before), while the hosts would remind the viewers that "due to windy conditions, we're enjoying some of our balloons on video". Sadly, Sonic the Hedgehog got hit with this in his debut year. This has reduced significantly since the 1998 parade introduced new safety measures for the balloons (after a plethora of mishaps the previous year); the last time they threw on prerecorded footage was in 2005, when the M&M's balloon blew into a lamppost and injured two people.
    • Notably, when the Dudley the Dragon balloon debuted in 1995 and subsequently speared himself on a lamppost, they ran footage of it actually being in the parade that was filmed shortly before the incident happened, rather than test footage from the week before.
    • A more minor example of this happened in 2008 when the Keith Haring balloon briefly hit the broadcast booth. No one was injured, thankfully, and the presenters were quick to make jokes about it ("That's a lot of heart!").
    • Parodied in the 2011 Power Rangers segment, which opened with Al getting swamped by Moogers (and making a jab at Matt) before the Rangers fixed things.
    • In 1989, the Bugs Bunny balloon — who was making his debut — sprung a leak (possibly due to the cold weather) and had to be withdrawn from the parade at the last minute, resulting in the test footage. Willard insisted that this was due to the character getting sick from eating bad carrots.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: They're always quick to make the jump on whatever's "cool" at the time, most recently in 2014 where Cracker Jack's float featured an animated family taking a selfie.
  • What Could Have Been: Hilary Duff was supposed to return to the parade in 2014; for some reason she dropped out and American Authors took her place.
    • That same year, the cast of the musical Finding Neverland was scheduled among the Broadway performers, and while the musical name appeared in some cable-TV descriptions, they did not perform for reasons unknown to mannote . However, the cast of Peter Pan Live, a telecast based on the book that Finding Neverland is based around, performed. Neverland would eventually perform the song "Believe" in the 2015 parade.
    • The Cheetah Girls were initially listed among the 2008 performers, but they dropped out shortly afterwards due to a controversy involving one of its members, and they were replaced at the last minute with Miranda Cosgrove and Rick Astley.
    • The cast of Glee were scheduled to perform in 2009, but were withdrawn to avoid conflict from Fox, a rival network with host broadcaster NBC. Keke Palmer was subsequently brought in as a replacement. Amusingly enough, the Glee cast later performed on the 2011 Emmys (also broadcast by NBC), and the show's version of "Holding Out For A Hero" from the episode "Dynamic Duets" was included in the parade's 2013 cheerleading segment. "Deck the Rooftop" was also featured in a 2015 dance performance.
    • A balloon named Petula Pig was to debut in 1997, and was even named in the opening credits, but had to be withdrawn at the very last minute due to the winds and didn't properly debut until 1999.
    • In 2013, Joan Jett was going to perform on the Mount Rushmore float but got hit with protests. She was transplanted to the Pep Rally float, with The Summer Set taking her place with Mount Rushmore.
    • Justin Bieber was to appear on the CBS version for 2015, but had to drop out, along with a Late Show appearance that he would have filmed his concert segments after. In the parade proper, Dove Cameron was to perform alongside her Descendants costar Sofia Carson, but Cameron was unable to attend, though she was still listed in the opening credits. She revealed on her Instagram, that she ended up very sick that day.
    • Woody Woodpecker and Casper the Friendly Ghost were considered for balloons in the 1960s. Woody got his chance to shine in 1982.
    • Macy's attempted to fly the original Happy Dragon balloon for it's 50th birthday, but New York would not let them. A second failed attempt led to a new balloon being created.
  • The Wiki Rule: Yes, even that. Before the Wiki took on new ownership, it was filled up with Urban Legend of Zelda. Nowadays, the Wiki is much more cleaner and is frequently updated.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Just about everything from the balloons and floats to the guests. Platypus Comix insisted that Donny Osmond's appearance in 1981 "fulfill[ed] the national law that at least one Osmond had to be on every single program during the late 70's and early 80's". This trope is so prevalent that non-instances are Something Completely Different; the previously-mentioned website, while reviewing the 1980 parade, was puzzled when the classic "Happy Dragon" balloon showed up, because it didn't seem to represent any major franchise. They actually thought the balloon represented the Broadway musical Brigadoon, which had a float in front of the Happy Dragon.
    • But since 2013, the balloons would just be given the "And the Rest" treatment during the opening parade lineup announcement on NBC's broadcast, favoring all the celebrity guests and musical acts, and then just quickly announcing "...and the World's Greatest Character balloons."


Example of: