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30 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Awkward Moments

Every November, American families gather ’round for food, quality time, and, of course, the country’s most famous annual parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has brought plenty of memorable characters, performers, and laughs since it first began back in 1924. But with such a long history, there’s bound to be some cringe-worthy moments.

From major lip-sync fails (hello, Rita Ora!) to balloon mishaps (remember when Superman lost his hand?), there have been countless times when things went, let’s say, not exactly as planned. For some hilarious secondhand embarrassment this holiday season — plus a few interesting facts to bring to the dinner table — take a look back at the most awkward moments in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade history.

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“Get Out of Here, You Butter!”

In what eventually became an ongoing rivalry, Al Roker and a character in the parade — later dubbed Butter Man — had it out on live TV in 2019. “Get out of here, you butter!” the anchor famously shouted while literally shoving him out of the way. The moment quickly went viral, especially after Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda shared it on Twitter.

Pop singers Rita Ora and John Legend both went viral for their disastrous lip-sync fails on floats back in 2018. They both defended themselves on Twitter after the show, explaining that floats don’t have the capability to support live performances. Macy’s later blamed it all on technical difficulties.

Laura Benanti’s rendition of My Fair Lady‘s“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in 2018 got people talking. While singing “Lots of chocolate for me to eat…” she quickly shoved a piece of chocolate into an audience member’s mouth. Sure, it seemed planned — but the man’s stunned reaction was hilariously awkward nonetheless.

Gwen Stefani’s Shining Moment

Gwen Stefani’s 2017 performance lasted way longer than anyone else’s, because she pre-taped her performance — and, instead of singing atop a float, she stood on the Bryant Park Ice Skating Rink. While fun, the new format definitely threw off the usual feel of the parade. “Gwen Stefani is smart. She’ll make her escape from Bryant Park and be home before Thanksgiving starts,” one Twitter user joked.

When a streetlight ripped open the Barney balloon in 1997, police swarmed the scene and proceeded to stab the character with knives to deflate it safely. Let’s hope all those traumatized kids in attendance can laugh about it now.

Cheerleader Takes a Tumble

Anything can happen on live TV. That’s what this poor cheerleader learned in 2012, when she fell at the exact moment the camera zoomed in on her. Thankfully she was caught by her fellow squad members, but talk about bad timing.

In 2014, rock band American Authors seemed so caught up in the excitement that they completely missed the starting cue for their own performance. Instead, they waved to the crowd as their song played in the background, and the lead singer *tried* to save the moment by mouthing the words about halfway through.

It was the Twitter beef that everyone couldn’t stop talking about come Turkey Day 2018. Macy’s re-shared an old Tweet of Chrissy Teigen’s, in which she made fun of the event, saying: “I cannot imagine being bored enough to watch a parade on television.”

The store also added an announcement that her husband John Legend would be a performer in that year’s parade. Judging by the nearly 50,000 likes, parade fans seemed to be Team Macy’s all the way.

It’s raining…confidential info? In 2012, shredded papers from the Nassau County Police Department — including employee social security numbers, banking information and even undercover detectives’ real identities — were found in the parade confetti. As Macy’s claimed to use purchased confetti and not shredded paper, how this happened remains a mystery.

In 1957, rain filled up in Popeye’s hat and spilled out onto the crowds below. If parade-goers weren’t cold before that unfortunate moment, they definitely were after.

You’re never too cool for Thanksgiving — but tell that to KISS. The band raised eyebrows in 2014 for performing aboard an empty, bare float. No theme, no color, no excitement…besides their iconic face paint, of course.

The internet was set ablaze following the cast of Moulin Rouge‘s Herald Square performance in 2021. The sexy dances and risqué costumes led to a massive debate on whether or not the act was too much for a PG-rated parade. Maybe you should watch and decide for yourself?

In 2019, the weather didn’t cooperate with most of the performers — including this unlucky marching band member, who lost her baton to the wind. “Me realizing these intense gusts of wind will prove v tricky for the baton twirlers at the parade this year…” Vanity Fair writer Chris Murphy tweeted, sharing the cringey clip.

In 2021, Foreigner rolled up in a dollhouse to sing “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The float’s choir and dancing dolls and robots confused many, including this Twitter user, who joked, “It doesn’t feel like the holidays have started until Foreigner appears in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade…in a dollhouse.”

Nutcracker Takes Down Marcher

When heavy winds had the Nutcracker flying all around in 2019, a woman can be seen rushing towards the character to help ground it. You can probably guess what happened next: She was flung to the ground. But don’t worry; she quickly recovered and kept running after the balloon!

If this parade photo looks different than what you’re used to, there’s a big reason “floating” around. Due to a helium shortage in 1958, balloons had to be carried on cranes. “Limp and sickly looking, it was not the robust figure children and adults are used to seeing,” The New York Times wrote at the time.

Hoda Kotb Loses It Over ‘Dragon Ball Z’

Hoda had such an incredibly hard time saying “Kakarot” while introducing the Dragon Ball Z character’s balloon in 2019 that she immediately started cracking up, and even needed a second in between lines to collect herself.

In 2019, one onlooker went viral after being caught boogying during a performance. We have to admit, having a front row (and indoor!) view of the parade is dance-worthy.

This unfortunate-yet-hilarious image was another viral moment of the 2019 parade. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid looks like he’s about to snatch Miss America up and climb a skyscraper like King Kong,” one Twitter user joked.

When South Dakota cattle ranchers expressed their unhappiness with outspoken vegetarian Joan Jett performing aboard their state’s float in 2013, the rock legend volunteered to move to another one. The Summer Set performed in her place instead, and the whole thing seemed to be resolved — until two of the band’s members were later revealed to also be vegetarians.

The Parade Gets “Rick Rolled”

That’s the look of pure “I don’t know who this man is” on those kids’ faces. In 2008, Rick Astley leapt out from his hiding spot aboard the Cartoon Network float and interrupted the float’s puppets’ song to perform “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Though the prank was pre-planned, it seemed to have left more children confused than excited.

Superman Could’ve Used a Hand

With its misshaped arms and glaring eyes, 1986’s Superman balloon already looked creepy enough. When the character’s hand fell off, it was something out of a horror movie. “It landed in the street, facing sideways like a handshake. It looked really freaky,” author Robert Grippo wrote.

Due to social distancing guidelines, the Rockettes were forced to skip their legendary signature kick line routine in 2020. While the reason behind the decision was completely understandable, their performance had a different feel from past parades. “Why didn’t the Rockettes tear off the adorable toy soldier pants and do a kick line? I’m not ok,” one Twitter user wrote.

A big part of the event’s magic is seeing Santa at the very end, where he officially rings in the holiday season. But in 1932, Old St. Nick oddly kicked off the parade instead. It was the first and only year that ever happened.

Scavenger Hunt Gone Wrong

Back when balloons weren’t designed to deflate (which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best idea), Macy’s had an even wilder thought. In 1927, the company released certain balloons into the skies — including Felix the Cat — and offered a special prize for anyone who found them.

The result? Groups of people chasing after the characters by boat and ripping the balloons apart in heated battles of tug-of-war. Yikes.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…

People even took to the skies looking for the released balloons. In 1932, one pilot purposely flew her plane into a floating Tom-Cat in hopes of catching it.

“She shouted, ‘I think I’ll have a piece of the neck’ to [her instructor], as she took dead aim at the cat,” according to the book Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Thankfully, her instructor was able to save them both and land the plane safely — but it’s understandable why this not-so-smart game was cancelled the following year.

The Rabbit Who Scared Manhattan

As “The Rabbit” traveled through the streets in 2007, it was met with a not-so-enthusiastic response from the crowds below. Modeled after an iconic stainless steel Jeff Koons sculpture, it remains one of the most unfriendly-looking balloons ever to take to the skies, and was clearly not a fan-favorite.

During Bad Bunny’s 2018 performance aboard the Sour Patch Kids float, one adorable kid could be seen dabbing. Over and over. For the entire time. The other children started following his lead, and it quickly became a dabbing party. A true must-see!

Despite 10,000 people gathering to see the first parade, it barely made any national attention. In fact, it only earned two sentences the following day in the New York Herald.

Nothing’s more awkward than not having the word “Thanksgiving” in a Thanksgiving parade. When the event first began in 1924, it was actually called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade.”

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