National News

Rare, long-hidden films of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade reveal high-flying history

Posted November 23, 2017 3:41 p.m. EST

— We all know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through watching the event on television or in person as nearly 3 million plus people do every year. Although the event is known for fantastical floats, marching bands, celebrities and Santa Claus, what really attracts the oooohs and ahhhhs of the crowds are the giant balloons!

The event, which started in 1924, would march as a "Christmas Parade" until 1933. In 1934, it was called The Macy's Santa Claus Parade and officially became the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1935.

The first balloons joined the march in 1927. And no, we cannot confirm the legend that Felix the Cat was the first balloon - more history points to that being just legend. In 1928, the balloons took to the sky thanks to the use of helium for the first time.

The event and the balloons were invented by master showman and puppeteer Tony Sarg. He gave Macy's the blueprint for what the event would become. Goodyear ended their association with Macy's in the early 1980s, leaving Macy's with the task of getting a new balloon-maker and then helping another firm get up to speed in balloon-a-tics.

Now thanks to The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. donating reels and reels of film going back decades to The University of Akron Archives in 2013, we are starting to get some high-flying history fun not seen by the public!

A lot of the film dates back before 1952 and is on highly flammable and dangerous nitrate film, which had to be sent off site, and post-1952 film, which is on safety film.

Presently, the archive cannot transfer 35mm film but has the capabilities to transfer 16mm film on-site. This exciting film vault includes rare Macy's parade and balloon footage.

This year we present clips recently transferred by the University Of Akron Archives to share with WPIX viewers for Thanksgiving. We all know you will just "gobble" this stuff up! A big thank you to the team at the University Of Akron headed by Vic S. Fleischer!