Just like it has for years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will take place on Thanksgiving morning, beaming into millions of homes nationwide. This is an extravagant and expensive American tradition like no other.
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“The 2022 installment of the annual event will feature more than 5,000 volunteers, 16 giant balloons, 28 floats, over 700 clowns, 12 marching bands, 10 performance groups and a bevy of musical stars,” according to Today.
Here’s a look at the preparation that goes into this annual event in a year’s time, along with float costs and other expenses associated with this iconic Thanksgiving Day celebration. The total only adds to the big bucks Americans already spend on this holiday.
1. Annual Costs for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Can Exceed $13 Million
Annual costs for parade float supplies, float decorations, property taxes, and staff salaries typically total $2.7 million to $4.5 million. The sheer magnitude of the Macy’s parade is overwhelming, and so are the assets associated with the event.
Macy’s also has its own studio space and a massive supply of costumes to prepare for the parade. These assets are worth $8.9 million on any given year, outside of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Combined annual expenses and assets alone can push above $13 million some years.
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2. Giant Balloons Rack Up Costs of $510,000
Inflating balloons that can stretch up to five or six stories high is seriously expensive. Each balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade uses 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium. Filling every balloon costs a minimum of $510,000.
Each helium-filled giant requires 80 to 100 volunteer handlers, but sometimes that still isn’t enough to prevent them from going astray.
In 1997, winds up to 43 mph damaged several balloons–including Barney, The Pink Panther, Quik Bunny and the Cat in the Hat, forcing them to exit the parade route early.
The weather is something the parade organizers are going to have to keep an eye on this year, because the forecast for the morning of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade calls for a chance of showers.
3. New Balloons Cost Sponsors $190,000
Companies sponsoring brand new balloons pay a construction and parade fee of $190,000. The cost might be high, but advertising at the Thanksgiving parade is a huge marketing opportunity, and there’s no shortage of businesses willing to shell out the cash.
4. Returning Sponsors Pay $90,000 for Balloons
Sponsoring a balloon in the Macy’s parade is a big investment, so many sponsors opt to participate for several years. In these cases a new balloon doesn’t need to be constructed, so the fee drops to $90,000.
Favorites from years past, including Ronald McDonald, Spongebob, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Funko Pop!-inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda), are planned to return for 2022’s parade.
Snoopy will also be back this Thanksgiving, proving to be the mainstay character year after year in the parade, appearing more than any other balloon in the history of the Macy’s tradition. After 2022’s parade, Snoopy will have had 42 appearances and “a record eight different designs since his debut in 1968. His previous iterations include Flying Ace Snoopy, Astronaut Snoopy, and Millennium Snoopy.”
5. Construction Costs for Each Float Average $30,000 to $100,000
You won’t find your average parade floats in the Macy’s event–those on display here can take four to nine months to get from concept to completion. Parade float supply costs add up fast! This year, the Macy’s Day Parade is expected to use 240 gallons of paint, 200 pounds of confetti, and 300 pounds of glitter.
The 2022 parade plans to introduce 5 new floats to add to their classic line up, including “Baby Shark” by Pinkfong and Nickelodeon, “Geoffrey’s Dazzling Dance Party” by Toys “R” Us, “People of First Light” by Macy’s, “Supersized Slumber” by Netflix and “The Wondership” by Wonder.
This year a total of 28 extravagant floats will be in the parade. The average construction costs typically range from $30,000 to $100,000 per float.
6. Costumes Have a Total Price Tag of $2 million
The perfect parade float doesn’t just boast beautiful construction. About 700 elaborate costumes are designed in a normal year to bring parade float ideas to life. Costumes currently in storage are valued at $2 million. Balloon handlers wear jumpsuits, but those riding on floats are provided with custom-made garments, according to Business Insider.
On a typical Thanksgiving Day, 200 costume fitters are on-site to help participants into their outfits. When the parade is over, costumes are packed into 10 trucks and sent back to the warehouse.
7. Advance Ticket Sales for Participating Broadway Shows Have Climbed $300,000
Broadway shows vie for the chance to step into the national spotlight and perform in the Macy’s parade. The exposure has boosted advance ticket sales by roughly $300,000 in the past.
This year, the cast of the Broadway musical “Funny Girl,” headed by actress Lea Michele, will kick off the parade’s opening number. Other performances will be helmed by the casts of “The Lion King,” “Some Like It Hot, and “A Beautiful Noise.”
And of course, the Radio City Rockettes will be performing, too!
8. Property Taxes Total More Than $138,000
Even the Thanksgiving parade can’t get away from the taxman. Previously located in Hoboken, New Jersey, the Macy’s Parade Studio completed work on its new Moonachie, New Jersey, home in 2011. The 72,000-square-foot, $6.9 million building is nearly double the size of its previous 40,000-square-foot facility.
A tremendous amount of space is needed to house each parade float, balloon, costume and accessory and still have room for employees. Large facilities come with considerable expenses, which can explain the sky-high property tax bill of $138,573.
9. Salaries for Full-Time Staffers Total $1.3 million
Despite taking place just once a year on Thanksgiving Day, the Macy’s parade is an enormous undertaking that requires a full-time staff of 26 employees.
Temporary staffers are hired during the busy fall months, bringing the total employee count to roughly 40, bringing the combined salaries to a whopping total of about $1.3 million.
The Macy’s parade team includes painters, sculptors, carpenters, construction workers, metal workers and more. Employees start working long hours–including weekends–in September to make sure all preparations are in place for the big day.
10. Marching Bands Must Apply Two Years in Advance
For marching bands, it’s quite an honor to be selected to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The application process requires careful planning, as materials must be submitted nearly two years before the desired performance date.
Only 12 supremely talented marching bands are selected each year. However, all high school and college marching bands originally chosen to perform in the 2022 Macy’s Parade were selected in 2021 from applications submitted in 2020.
If the process remains the same, next year’s submissions will end in early February for bands chosen for the 2024 festivities.
11. More Than 50 Million People Watch the Parade
Around 50 million viewers tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from home each year, making it one of the biggest annual televised events in America.
Another estimated 3.5 million revelers are predicted to head to the streets of New York City to watch the parade in person.
Putting these numbers into perspective, the 2022 NBA Finals attracted nearly 14 million viewers for Game Six.
12. The Macy’s Parade Is the Joint Effort of 10,000 People
Putting on an event as large as the Macy’s parade requires a tremendous amount of assistance. A total of 10,000 people work together to make it a success–logging an estimated 50,000+ hours of labor in all-including Macy’s employees who volunteer their time to the parade.
From the artists who create the enormous helium balloons to the people who work all night to assemble the floats after they arrive in Manhattan, this is a major team effort. It’s probably safe to assume things get a little hectic at crunch time, but viewers never know it.
13. More Than 5,000 Macy’s Employees Volunteer on Thanksgiving Morning
Many people wouldn’t consider offering to work on Thanksgiving morning. However, more than 5,000 people from across the Northeast volunteer their time to the parade, a number that keeps going up each year. These volunteers serve in a wide variety of roles, including balloon handlers and balloon pilots.
Despite the sheer volume of volunteers, each person is assigned a costume to wear during the parade. Operations are so well organized that each volunteer can get dressed and ready within a two-hour window.
14. Thanksgiving Day Parade Marchers Total 10,000
Considering roughly 10,000 people march in the Macy’s parade in a typical year, it might seem easy to join in the fun, but it’s not. Since this Thanksgiving tradition launched in 1924, participation has been limited to Macy’s employees, their families and those with relationships to sponsors or others affiliated with the event.
Performing talent is the only exception to the rule. There are no reserved tickets available to purchase for the grandstand seating area, so arrive early if you want to stake out a good spot — in 2021, that is.
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Jennifer Taylor contributed to the reporting for this article.
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