A Thanksgiving tradition: Balloons from the Macy's Parade

Updated 8:36 PM ET, Sat November 21, 2020
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Felix the Cat was one of the first giant balloons to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade in New York City, as much a holiday tradition as turkey, football and dinner-table debates, started in 1924. Balloons first appeared in 1927, replacing live animals from the Central Park Zoo. courtesy Macy's
Dog (1929): In 1929, the balloons were equipped with safety valves that allowed helium to slowly seep out. The balloons would float for a few days and land somewhere with return address labels attached. If any viewers were lucky enough to find the balloons, they would get a special gift from Macy's. That lasted for a few years. These days, the balloons are deflated after the parade. courtesy macy's
Mickey Mouse (1934): Macy's designers collaborated with Walt Disney to produce a Mickey Mouse balloon in 1934. Throughout the years, Macy's has produced three more versions of the famous mouse: a more updated look in 1977, Bandleader Mickey in 2000 and Sailor Mickey in 2009. NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Officer SOS 13 (1937): The police have always been associated with the parade, whether they are patrolling the streets or flying through the air as balloons. "Officer SOS 13" debuted in 1937 and represented the dedication of law enforcement officials. courtesy Macy's
Superman (1939): "It's a bird! It's a plane!" No, its a typical joke that's associated with the Superman balloon that debuted in 1939. The Man of Rubber has graced the parade with three different versions of himself, also in 1966 and in 1980. The third version is the largest balloon ever to appear in the history of the parade (104 feet long). ho/ap
Eddie Cantor (1940): Eddie who? Eddie Cantor, the "Banjo Eyes" song-and-dance man who had already peaked in popularity before he floated down Broadway. He is known for songs like "Makin' Whoopee" and for being only the second balloon in the parade to be based on a living person (the Marx Brothers were the first). Cantor's balloon doesn't appear in the parade anymore, and neither do other balloons based on real people. FPG/Getty Images
Uncle Sam (1940): Two years after this, Macy's brought the parade to a halt for the first time. World War II had started, and because of rubber and helium shortages, balloons were deflated and donated to the government. The parade came back in 1945 with a record-breaking 2 million spectators lining the streets. NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Elf gnome (1947): The parade started being televised in the late 1940s. It first appeared on CBS, but NBC has been the official broadcaster since the 1950s. There have been a variety of hosts for NBC's coverage of the parade, including Betty White, Ed McMahon, Bryant Gumbel, Willard Scott, Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Matt Lauer and Al Roker. courtesy Macy's
Mighty Mouse (1951): Mighty Mouse soars above the crowd as he hogs the spotlight in his balloon debut. Nick Petersen/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Popeye (1957): Popeye's debut was marked by rainy weather in 1957. The spinach-eating sailor was constructed with an indentation on the top of his hat. During the parade, the downpour filled his cap with gallons of water and caused him to veer over the crowd, where he dumped cold water all over the surprised spectators. courtesy Macy's
Donald Duck (1962): The iconic cartoon character makes his second appearance in 1962. CSU Archives/Courtesy Everett Collection
Sinclair Oil dinosaur (1963): The Sinclair Oil mascot looks as though it is diving toward the crowd during its debut in 1963. courtesy Macy's
Underdog (1965): "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!" Paul DeMaria/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Aviator Snoopy (1968): Eight different versions of the Snoopy character have appeared in the parade, the first being Aviator Snoopy in 1968. Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Kermit the Frog (1977): A "Muppet Show" ad promotes the launch of the Kermit balloon in 1977. Courtesy Jim Henson Company
Woody Woodpecker (1982): The Woody Woodpecker balloon makes its first appearance. NBC/Getty Images
Garfield (1984): Garfield's grin keeps getting wider as technicians pump helium into the big balloon. Bill Stahl Jr./NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Bugs Bunny (1989): Bugs Bunny floats over the Great Lawn in Central Park. Monica Almeida/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Bart Simpson (1990): "Cowabunga!" Bart Simpson skateboards down Broadway as he makes his parade debut. In 1993, Bart split his seams due to extremely windy conditions. courtesy Macy's
Izzy (1993): Izzy, the mascot for the 1996 Olympic Games, carries the Olympic torch. ap
Blue (1999): The dog from the animated show "Blue's Clues" floats high above the parade. David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Jeeves (2000): The Ask Jeeves balloon casts a reflection in a Times Square window. Jeeves was the mascot for the search engine, then known as "Ask Jeeves." David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Pikachu (2001): The lovable Pokemon floats over New York in its first appearance in 2001. Beth Keiser/ap
SpongeBob SquarePants (2004): SpongeBob left his pineapple home in the sea to attend his first Macy's parade in 2004. Gregory Bull/ap
Scooby Doo (2005): The Scooby Doo balloon hangs over Central Park West as it is pulled through the parade in 2005. Julie Jacobson/ap
Buzz Lightyear (2008): The "Toy Story" star floats down Broadway in 2008. Joe Kohen/WireImage/getty images
The Pillsbury Doughboy (2009): The 2009 parade route changed for the sixth time in parade history, and it was the first time it did not travel through Broadway on its way to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
B. Boy (2011): B, designed by film director Tim Burton, floats in 2011. Andrew Burton/ap
Elf on the Shelf (2012): This balloon was created by Keith Lapinig of Queens, New York, for a design contest in 2012. The public voted for their favorite elf balloon out of 85 submissions. courtesy Macy's
Toothless (2013): Toothless, from the movie "How to Train Your Dragon," made its debut in the 2013 parade. Toothless was four stories tall, as long as 12 bicycles and as wide as seven taxi cabs. courtesy Macy's
Caterpillar balloon (2019): A colorful caterpillar balloon inches its way down the route. Kena Betancur/Getty Images