Published in
Features

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Where Tradition and Pop Culture Meet

Along with the obligatory mashed potatoes and stuffing, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an intrinsic part of many Thanksgiving celebrations across the country. In the shadow of huge balloons and smaller ones (called "ballonicles" in parade parlance) will be the traditional holiday floats, standout high school marching bands and the baton-twirling, face-painted fare that kick off the holiday season.

In its 84th year, the parade continues to mix traditional characters with kid-pleasers for the generation raised on Pixar and YouTube as opposed to Merry Melodies. Arriving this year to the big balloon party that includes regulars like Mickey Mouse and Snoopy are two new balloons: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "Kung Fu Panda."

Artist Takashi Murakami, whose bright, pop-infused characters have made their way recently to Versailles, worked with the parade over several months to create balloonicles of his characters Kaikai and Kiki. Murakami Spokesman Brad Plumb says that the balloons are not the only thing the artist has planned for the parade: "Let's just say he'll be pretty hard to miss."

What's your favorite part of the parade? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Plus, check out a slideshow of balloons that will be in the parade coming to life.

Linda Volkomer is a fenching coach at the Stephen's Institute. She's been volunteering to inflate the balloons for the last 24 years.
Linda Volkomer is a fenching coach at the Stephen's Institute. She's been volunteering to inflate the balloons for the last 24 years. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Volunteers work to inflate the parade baloons. Kermit require 11,000 cubic feet of helium to get him afloat.
Volunteers work to inflate the parade baloons. Kermit require 11,000 cubic feet of helium to get him afloat. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Before inflating the baloons, workers cover them with giant wieghted  nets to prevent them from flying away.
Before inflating the baloons, workers cover them with giant wieghted nets to prevent them from flying away. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Families came out in droves to watch workers inflate the baloons.
Families came out in droves to watch workers inflate the baloons. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Workers and volunteers adjust the nets on a parade baloon.
Workers and volunteers adjust the nets on a parade baloon. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Shrek, all tied up.
Shrek, all tied up. ( Photo by Marlon BIshop )
A balloon comes dangerously close to bumping its nose on the street.
A balloon comes dangerously close to bumping its nose on the street. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
Technician Jim Ortle has worked with the Macy's Parade for 30 years.
Technician Jim Ortle has worked with the Macy's Parade for 30 years. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )
The Kool Aid Man is a balloonicle, a Macy's invention than combines a baloon with a vehicle.
The Kool Aid Man is a balloonicle, a Macy's invention than combines a baloon with a vehicle. ( Photo by Marlon Bishop )

A production sketch by Murakami.

Artwork ©2010 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Murakami and Macy's designer John Piper inspects the balloon maquette at Kaikai Kiki's Miyoshi studio in Saitama, Japan.

"Kaikai" and "Kiki" characters ©2000 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The clay molds used to create balloons in the shape of artist Takashi Murakami's Kaikai and Kiki balloonicles.

"Kaikai" and "Kiki" characters ©2000 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

of