The 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will march through New York City, filling the streets, skies and many television screens with colorful, festive floats, balloons and performers on Thursday.
Since 1924, Macy’s employees have hosted the parade with its elaborate floats and balloons to spread holiday cheer and promote America’s largest department store. The parade has grown and adapted over the years, mixing in balloons and floats featuring the newest characters in children’s entertainment along with classic mainstays of the parade, like Snoopy and Tom the Turkey.
Will Coss, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, explains that keeping it fresh, fun and entertaining is the key to its longevity. “The talented team of artisans and production specialists of Macy’s Studios work year-round to deliver the nation’s most beloved holiday event, live on Thanksgiving morning. On behalf of my entire team, we are proud to hold this responsibility and challenge ourselves every year to create new unbelievable designs and larger-than-life character balloons, all creating lifelong memories for parade fans nationwide,” Coss exclusively told WWD.
“Our goal is to entertain the millions of spectators, both live in New York City and watching at home across the country, with time-honored traditions and exciting newness.”
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 2023
In 2023, the parade will start 30 minutes earlier at 8:30 a.m. in all time zones, extending the spectacle for the first time in 50 years. “We are excited to bring the nation seven new character balloons, four new floats and 12 of the nation’s finest marching bands, many marching the parade for the first time,” Coss said.
Adding to the experience, Macy’s has launched a new online game where fans can explore the parade virtually and learn about its history.
“One of my favorite parade moments that I look forward to every year is watching the faces of spectators light up as our iconic balloons, fantastical floats and performances make their way down the streets of New York on Thanksgiving morning,” Coss said. “As a native New Yorker, I grew up watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and it’s so special to be overseeing the same iconic event decades later and providing the same magic with fans of all ages along the route and across the country.”
In 2023, there will be 16 character balloons, including seven that are new and 33 heritage and novelty balloons.
One of the new character balloons features Blue Cat and Chugs by Cool Cats, which won last year’s public vote to transform an NFT character into the first-ever NFT-inspired parade balloon.
The other new balloons are:
- Beagle Scout Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide
- Kung Fu Panda’s Po by Universal Pictures’ Dreamworks Animation
- Leo by Netflix Inc.
- Monkey D. Luffy by Toei Animation Inc.
- Pillsbury Doughboy by Pillsbury and Uncle Dan by Illumination
While Snoopy returns in a brand new form this year, he holds the record for the most years flown by a character balloon, totaling 40 appearances in 2019. Dragon Ball Z’s Goku is the tallest balloon at 56 feet this year, while Leo the Lizard is the longest at 73 feet.
26 Fantastical Floats and 8,000 Hours of Work
Tom Turkey starts the parade every year, while Santa Claus closes it at Herald Square. In 2023, the parade will feature 26 floats, including four new ones. The Macy’s team crafted the floating stages, featuring elaborate, fantastical elements that bring each theme to life, such as giant hand-painted cherries for the new Willy Wonka one.
The new 2023 floats and their featured performers are:
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem by Nickelodeon and Paramount (Bell Biv DeVoe)
- Palace of Sweets by Brach’s (Brandy)
- Igniting Memories by Solo Stove (Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors)
- The Deliciously Delectable World of Wonka by Warner Bros. Pictures
The largest float is Santa’s Sleigh, which closes the fest every year. It is 60 feet long and 3.5 stories tall.
The 27 painters, carpenters, animators, sculptors, welders, scene and costume designers and electricians and engineers that make up the Macy’s Parade Studio team spend more than 8,000 hours behind the scenes each year bringing the parade to life. A parade float takes about four months to construct, plus more time for ideation and design. Two thousand gallons of paint, 300 pounds of glitter and 200 pounds of confetti go into the festive creations, according to Macy’s.
This year’s musical guests include Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Chicago, En Vogue, Enhyphen, David Foster and Katharine McPhee, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Jessie James Decker, Ashley Park with the cast and “Muppets of Sesame Street,” Pentatonix, Paul Russell, Amanda Shaw and Alex Smith, and Manuel Turizo.
The Radio City Rockettes return for their 64th year at the parade, and Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree also returns, lit up by a choir of 60 Macy’s employees and Bigs and Littles from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
In addition to the star-studded cast of performers, a plethora of volunteers march in the parade, doing important jobs like helping hold the balloons.
“The Macy’s Parade is created by its colleagues, a tradition which started with the first parade in 1924. This year’s parade features more than 5,000 volunteers comprised of Macy’s colleagues, friends and family. There are approximately 8,000 total participants, which include volunteers alongside some of the nation’s most talented marching bands and performance groups,” Coss said.
5,000 Elaborate Costumes
The parade will feature more than 5,000 costumes, uniforms and official jackets, according to Kimberly Montgomery, Macy’s Studios costume director.
“As I design costumes for the parade, I ask myself several questions: Does it tell a story? How do we make this weather-friendly? How do we adapt for volunteers of all sizes, so that anyone who wears it has the best time in it? How do we create space for warm layers to fit underneath if needed? Also, I find every opportunity to add a splash of color and a little into the costumes. A festive celebration calls for festive design,” Montgomery told WWD.
One of Montgomery’s favorite parade looks she’s designed is from the iconic Tom the Turkey float. “In 2018, I had the opportunity to design and produce Macy’s Autumn Starlet costumes that accompany the traditional first float Tom the Turkey, [when] the float was skillfully rebuilt by our Macy’s Studios team,” Montgomery said. “What resulted are amazing autumnal tailcoat and vested costumes, made of stretch copper velvet to fit multiple body types. [They] feature crystal sheer autumn leaves swooping off the lower back, sprinkled lightly with Swarovski crystals. These costumes are a perfect illustration of the magic of the Macy’s Parade — a perfectly choreographed ensemble stepping off on a crisp autumn morning, topped with shiny copper acorn fascinators and bowler hats.”
The 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on NBC at 8:30 a.m. EST and stream on Peacock on Thursday.