How Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade covers the sights for 3 million

The 90th annual giant balloon parade draws over 3 million people to New York to watch performers like Psy and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra

In the year we’ve just lived through the dawn of Trump’s first term, you might wonder: what on earth does the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have to do with Christmas?

Whatever you do, don’t blame the American public; they’re not being exploited by you, watching this. The parade is the largest free-admission event in the country. In fact, over 3 million people turn out to watch it every year, and it’s a tradition that dates back to 1924.

A Filipino American during an earlier iteration of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

No, the parade has more to do with Thanksgiving than Christmas, and that’s thanks to the tagline that accompanied the parade’s origin: “You Can’t Put a Price on Joy”.

That sentiment rings true today, as the parade draws thousands of spectators to New York, almost exclusively families, for the 90th annual giant balloon parade, co-sponsored by NBC, which broadcasts the live broadcasts every year.

It’s a lot of fun, but this year it will be very different. For the first time in more than 40 years, NBC won’t be broadcasting the parade live in every city across the country, allowing it to stream online instead.

A parade-goer passes by a children’s area during the 1962 parade. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis via Getty Images

At least that’s what Macy’s announced in April. Though the parade doesn’t go off until Thursday morning at 9am ET/6am PT, some viewers are seeing the live stream online before 9am. To see what’s happening online, head to and select “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” as the topic. NBC Sports ProShop is selling $10, $20 and $30 packages that provide access to the live stream, along with streaming for all four championship college football games. These packages will be available until 12 midnight ET/8pm PT on Tuesday, Thanksgiving.

More about the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

From his box seat, Ryan Seacrest watches Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from Rockefeller Center. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Anyone who still thinks there’s some glory left to be earned by covering the parade live each year is in for a surprise this year. NBC has been responsible for hosting the live broadcasts since 1952, when it was acquired by the one of the parade’s co-founders, Danny Rose. Rose served as the parade’s sole host for 30 years, until Macy’s ceded control to the show’s producers in 1983. NBC has been broadcasting Thanksgiving Day since 1990.

The 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photograph: Mashable

When NBC does turn its spotlight on the parade, they do it like a spectacle, bringing broadcast personalities like Carson Daly, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric to New York to add their own touch. That parade almost didn’t happen in 1941, when it was originally scheduled to take place on 27 November. That was one of the holidays of the war effort; in order to improve the running of the parade, Macy’s made a strategic decision: instead of the 9th to show it off, they pushed back the parade until 1 November. With crowds clamoring to see the balloon festooned dragon, the parade was approved. The Mickey Mouse balloon really seemed to sink in, and the lineup is as cheesy as you’d expect from a theme celebrating the trappings of the season that was later accused of bowing to salacious consumerism.

Since then, Macy’s has packed in plenty of stuff to watch the parade: performances from Katy Perry, Al Green, Ariana Grande, Blake Shelton, Wiz Khalifa, and of course, Michael Bublé, who nabbed a cover from his yacht, at the behest of the parade’s creator Daniel O’Connell, who had come to view the experience of the parade from the yacht. Anyone can walk through the doors of One Herald Square, and if you’re really confident about your ability to sing like Katy Perry, the entire experience can be up for grabs.

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