If you've ever seen the movie Miracle on 34th Street then you probably have some idea about Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade - an annual event in New York City that unofficially kicks off the holiday season here in the United States. As Americans gather in celebration of the first Thanksgiving that took place in the New World several hundred years ago, many of them will take time out to watch a relatively new tradition of the holiday.
It takes more than 75,000 cubic meters of helium to blow up the giant balloons for the Thanksgiving Day parade. The blowing up process begins early on Thanksgiving Eve and continues throughout the day and evening. The spectacle, which takes up two full city blocks of Manhattan's Upper West Side, has become something of a celebration in itself.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade began more than 75 years ago, when a group of employees from the New York department store decided to put on a parade. From there, says the parade's Executive Producer Robin Hall, it just took off. "It has grown tremendously. There were, I think, six balloons in the parades in the 50's. There are 15 major balloons today and 20 or 21 of what we call, novelty balloons," she explains. "A novelty ballloon can be 52 feet long, by the way. I don't want to minimize the importance of it. We have 29 major floats in this parade, plus clown vehicles. There are about 12,000 people marching."
Mr. Hall says they expect at least 2.5 million people to line up along the parade route as it makes its way down Broadway to Herald Square - and that's not counting the television audience which numbers about 50 million viewers.
Denise will be among those watching the parade with her two grandchildren. She says she has enjoyed the parade for the past 40 years. And although she's originally from France, Thanksgiving has a special meaning for her. "Thanksgiving for me is very special. I came to America on Thanksgiving Day. It was wonderful," she says. "I never had turkey in my life. You know, after the war, we hardly had any food in France. We were liberated by the Americans."
The theme of this year's 77th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is what else - "Let's Have a Parade" and Robin Hall says it will be a 'theatrical' experience. "We have four broadway up front. We have 'Never Going to Dance.' We have 'The Boy From Oz.' We have 'Wicked.' And, we have 'The Little Shop of Horrors.'" she explains. "We, of course, have The Rockettes at the beginning of the parade. And then, many many celebrities in the course of the parade. Some, for people like me, [musical groups] Cool and the Gang, Chicago, [and singers] Judy Collins Peter Cincotti," she adds. For children, though, like Annie and her brother Tommy, it's all about the balloons.