The turkey is cooking, the coffee is poured, and the only thing left is to turn on the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Once the red ribbon is cut, pure magic makes its way through NYC. Ever since its founding in 1924, the event has spread joy nationwide by ringing in the holiday season. Whether it was the legendary hosts—like Betty White, Lorne Greene, and Willard Scott, just to name a few—or record-breaking attendance, take a look back at what the festivities looked like the year you were born.
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The toy solider balloon made its big debut in 1950, saluting spectators as it cruised its way through the streets. The figure became a big part of future parades, but was ultimately retired in 1958.
In 1951, the parade route traveled directly through Times Square—something that doesn’t happen today. The iconic location was taken off the route in 2012, to provide more space for the parade and crowds.
Though the crocodile balloon was short-lived (it only was used a total of five times), it made a splash in 1952, when its front left leg was punctured mid-parade.
Another beloved parade attraction in the early ’50s was the spaceman balloon. Made by Goodyear engineers, it was 70 feet long and over 25 gallons of paint was used to cover its exterior.
Camera crews climb on ladders to reach the awning of the entrance of Macy’s, where they filmed the parade festivities from. Now that’s what we call dedication.
Attendance hit astronomical numbers in 1955, as an estimated 2.25 million showed up to watch the parade. Also: Check out that Joan Crawford marquee!
The Radio City Rockettes, a New York staple, began performing annually in the parade in 1958. Here, they wave to spectators aboard a float that’s decorated for Christmas.
Years before Tom Turkey made his debut, a turkey balloon was used instead. The Times Square skyline sure looks emptier here than it does today!
Actor Joe E. Brown flashes a smile on a showboat float. Though he made a name for himself in showbiz long before the ’60s, it was his performance in the 1959 Marilyn Monroe hit, Some Like It Hot, that he’s best known for.
The crowd in 1961 quite literally go to meet the Mets. Manager Casey Stengel waved aboard a float to celebrate the launch of the New York Mets team in the 1962 season.
Actor Dean Jones promotes his 1962 sitcom, Ensign O’Toole, on a Pinocchio float. He came dressed in his character’s Navy uniform. The show only lasted one season before it was cancelled the following year.
After the 1963 parade, this particular Santa’s sleigh was retired. It first made its debut in 1960 and was replaced with a grander design (with more reindeer and Santa’s workshop!) for future events.
The following year, the replacement sleigh float made its debut. Santa is seen guiding his reindeer, with Mrs. Claus waving to spectators from inside.
Betty White looks absolutely radiant as she hosts the parade alongside Lorne Greene. The duo held the special gig for nearly ten years—from 1963 to 1972.
The PSA mascot, Smokey the Bear, was created in 1944 to educate the public on human-caused wildfires, but didn’t make his parade debut until 1966.
A little rain didn’t stop the crowds from showing up in 1967. Families did just about everything they could to stay dry—covering up in tarps, umbrellas, even ponchos.
Star Trek actor William Shatner, in costume as Captain Kirk, takes in the view from atop a soapbox derby car float. The iconic television series would come to an end the following year.
Joe Garagiola did it all: He played major league baseball, became a game commentator for NBC, hosted Today, and eventually co-hosted the parade. Here, he gives those watching at home an inside scoop, while acrobats perform just feet away.
Another thing you won’t necessarily see today? Spectators on the street without a barrier in sight. Here, a clown walks right up to a smiling kid.
Donald Duck flies through the streets with a deflated wing, after getting caught on a tree branch. His pal, Mickey, was right behind him though!
The Underdog balloon remained a fan favorite even after the television show ended in 1973. The character appeared in future parades, making a total of 20 appearances until its last flight in 1984.
Best seat in the house? In 1974, it was this young boy’s view from a crossing signal. Everything else—from how he got up there to where his parents are—is a mystery.
Heavy rain had bands marching through ankle-deep puddles in 1975. Despite the challenge, performers didn’t bat an eye. You know what they say: The show must go on!
The temperatures were incredibly low in 1976 at 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The Radio City Rockettes braved the cold and didn’t miss a beat.
Everyone’s favorite moose, Bullwinkle, debuted in 1961. In 1977, the character made its 17th appearance—over a decade after The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends came to an end.
It wouldn’t be New York without the Yankees. Here, shortstop Bucky Dent waves to cheering fans. He had a lot to celebrate, since his team won back-to-back World Series in 1977 and 1978.
Diana Ross performed atop The Daily News’ Big Apple float in 1979. The singer treated fans to a rendition of her hit “The Boss.”
To generate buzz for the release of 1982’s Annie, the parade had a special float dedicated to the film. The detailed building and staircase look like they could be props straight from the set.
Before there was Al Roker, there was Willard Scott. The weatherman for Today is seen here interviewing the cast of Broadway’s Dreamgirls at the parade.
Miss America, Vanessa Williams, sports her tiara, as she waves to the crowd aboard The Daily News’ Big Apple float.
Actresses (and sisters) Judy and Audrey Landers ride through the streets on a float’s horse. Between their identical outfits and blonde ’80s hair, it’s easy to see their relation.
Betty Boop wows the crowd during her debut in 1985. Getting the legendary character—and her smiling moon—in the air was no easy feat, requiring a whopping 15,820 cubic feet of helium.
Superman could’ve used a hand in 1986—pun intended. His right one was cut off by a Central Park tree.
Five years after winning the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year, actress and singer Pia Zadora poses on a float with her young daughter, Kady.
The chief designer of the Spider-Man balloon, Manfred Bass, regarded it as one of his proudest accomplishments. He called it “a true living, flying piece of sculpture,” his friend shared on Instagram after his passing in 2017.
New Kids on the Block celebrated the last parade of the ’80s in style, aboard The Daily News’ Big Apple float. The boyband had the crowd quite excited.
Kermit the Frog flies high in honor of The Muppets creator, Jim Henson, after his passing in 1990. A tribute montage also played, showcasing all of his memorable contributions to the parade over the years.
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