Historical background … Balloons, bands, Santa: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off ushering in holiday season

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Spongebob Squarepants and Gary Balloon at the 93rd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday November 28, 2019 — (Photo: Peter Kramer/NBC)

Beloved characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants will take to the skies above New York City Thursday, November 24, 2023, while bands march along the streets below as the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushers in the holiday season.

The parade starts on Manhattan’s upper west side and makes its way alongside Central Park in front of big crowds and a national television audience before ending up in front of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street.

Among the big names performing is Cher, who just released her first Christmas album. The Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winner has a prime spot — performing just before the arrival of Santa Claus, which marks the end of the parade.

Other celebrities and musical groups taking part include Jon Batiste, Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Jessie James Decker, Pentatonix and Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke. The parade also includes performances from the casts of some Broadway shows.


New balloons debuting this year include Leo the lizard, a character from a Netflix film, who is more than 40 feet (12.5 meters) tall, as well as ones that have been there before — like SpongeBob, coming in at 44 feet (13.4 meters).

Some characters, like Snoopy, have been in the parade for many years, but this year’s balloon is a new Beagle Scout Snoopy version — celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first appearance in the Peanuts comics.

It’s “going to be a magical experience, an experience full of spectacle, full of entertainment, full of joy, full of celebration,” said Will Coss, executive producer of the parade.

The parade isn’t just about what’s going on in the skies, though. At street level, the procession includes more than two dozen floats, interspersed with marching bands from around the country and a number of clown crews among the 8,000 people participating, organizers said.

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This will be the 97th time the parade has been held since 1924.

The broadcast is hosted by Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker from “Today” and airs on NBC.

Historical background

For nearly 100 years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been considered by many Americans as the kickoff to Christmas. Each year the beloved parade is viewed by millions of spectators as balloons, performers, marching bands, and floats walk the streets of New York City to welcome the holidays.

Nicknamed as the “World’s Largest Store,” Macy’s was first opened as R.H. Macy and Co. in 1858 in New York City. Nearly 45 years later in 1902, the store moved to its permanent location at Herald Square.

The Herald Square location, which doubles as Macy’s flagship store and Macy’s Inc. corporate headquarters, stands 11 stories tall and is “2.5 million square feet, which includes 1.25 million square feet of retail space,” according to 34th Street. In 1924, this Macy’s location became known as the “World’s Largest Store.”

That same year, in an effort to boost holiday sales and highlight the location’s new title, Macy’s employees organized a parade. Although the inaugural parade was held on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1924, it was originally branded as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, according to the Library of Congress.

This year will be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s 97th edition. The lineup for the parade includes 25 balloons, 30 floats, 17 “big names,” 29 clown crews, five balloonicles, five performance groups, and nine marching bands.

The balloons making appearances this year include some that have flown the city streets before and some making their first appearances. Returning balloons include Bluey, Tiptoe, and Ronald McDonald. For the first time, Beagle Scout Snoopy, Po from “Kung Fu Panda,” and the Pillsbury Dough Boy will be flying.

Balloonicles, a word blending of “balloons” and “vehicles,” include the “Baby Dinos” and “Go Bowling.” The lineup for the floats includes the “Big Red Shoe Car,” “Harvest in the Valley,” and most notably, “Tom Turkey” and “Santa’s Sleigh.”

Among the performers this year are Brandy, Cher, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Pentatonix. Also performing are groups such as the Big Apple Circus, the Tap Dancing Christmas Tree, and the Radio City Rockettes. The nearly three-dozen clown crews include all types of clowns, from the Artist Clowns to the Keystone Cops to the Santa’s Toy Box Clowns.

Finally, the marching bands who were selected to perform include college bands, high school bands, and Macy’s Great American Marching Band. A band that Tarleton Texans may recognize in the parade this year is the Texas Tech University Goin’ Band from Raiderland, who have the honor to perform for millions of spectators in the parade this year. To read more about all of those appearing in the parade, visit

https://www.macys.com/s/parade/?lid=parade_nav-macysparade, Macy’s official parade website.

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be airing on NBC and simulcast on Peacock at 8:30 A.M.ET/PT and will take place on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2023, rain or shine. Be sure to tune in to watch the floats, performers, and balloons take to the streets of NYC to welcome Santa and kickoff the start of the Christmas season.