A holiday tradition that’s a must-see before your Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping, the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be held the morning of Thanksgiving, Nov. 22. Known for its larger-than-life parade float ideas, the world-famous procession kicks off at 9 a.m. sharp in New York City.
Creating a truly fantastic parade float is never cheap or easy, but you won’t believe the preparations that go into this annual event. Find out how much floats cost and other expenses associated with this spectacular Thanksgiving Day tradition.
1. Total Costs for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: $10.4M to $12.3M
Annual costs for helium, parade float supplies, taxes and logistical coordination total $1.5 million to $3.4 million, according to Ebates’ blog The Smart Shopper. 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. Those assets are worth $8.9 million. Combine the parade’s total annual expenses with its total assets and the price tag reaches $10.4 million to $12.3 million, making it an expensive holiday tradition.
2. Giant Balloon Helium Costs: $510,000
Inflating balloons that can soar 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, according to The Smart Shopper.
Each helium-filled giant requires 50 to 90 volunteer handlers, but sometimes that still isn’t enough. 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 New York Times reported.
3. Sponsoring a New Balloon: $190,000
Companies sponsoring brand new balloons pay a seriously pricey construction and parade fee, totaling $190,000, The Smart Shopper reported. The cost is high, but advertising at the Thanksgiving parade is a huge marketing opportunity — there’s certainly not a shortage of businesses willing to shell out the cash.
Some of the new balloons set to debut at the 2018 parade include Fleck, Bjorn, Jojo and Hugg from Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles,” Goku from the “Dragon Ball” franchise, Little Cloud, Sunny the Snowpal and two new Americana spheres.
4. Sponsoring a Returning Balloon: $90,000
Backing a balloon in the Macy’s parade is a huge investment, so many sponsors opt to participate for several years. Since a returning balloon doesn’t need to be constructed, the fee to join in this Thanksgiving Day extravaganza drops to $90,000, according to The Smart Shopper.
Several balloons will be returning for the 2018 parade, including the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob SquarePants and Sinclair’s Dino. One major question mark is the absence of Snoopy — with 39 Macy’s Thanksgiving parade appearances, Snoopy has shown up more than any other character. He was replaced by a Charlie Brown balloon in 2016, and his human has been confirmed again for the 2018 parade.
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5. Construction Costs for Each Float: $30,000 to $100,000
These Turkey Day spectacles are certainly not your average parade float — those on display at the Macy’s parade can take four to nine months to get from conception to completion. In 2018, a total of 31 extravagant floats will be in the parade, with average construction costs ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 for each float, The Smart Shopper reported.
Parade float supply costs add up fast, especially considering one float can contain 100 to 200 pounds of glitter, according to the blog. One of this year’s floats includes the three-story Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by the Hallmark Channel, featuring a 3D calendar.
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6. Costumes: $2M
The perfect parade float doesn’t just boast beautiful construction. Approximately 700 elaborate costumes are designed each year to bring parade float ideas to life, according to The Smart Shopper. 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 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: Up to $300,000 After a Parade Performance
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, The Smart Shopper reported. In 2017, the casts of Broadway’s “Waitress” and “Come From Away” entertained the crowd from the 34th Street stage.
This year’s parade will feature musical performances from the casts of “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Prom” and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” Playbill reported.
8. Parade Floats: $810,000 to $2.7M
The Thanksgiving parade wouldn’t be complete without its fancy floats, but these roving works of art add $810,000 to $2.7 million to the parade’s bottom line, according to The Smart Shopper. Beyond float decorations and supplies, considerable manpower is required.
Each parade float must be collapsed to a width of no more than 8.5 feet to get it through the Lincoln Tunnel, which is part of its journey from the studio in New Jersey to New York City. The floats are reconstructed from midnight to 8 a.m. the morning of the parade, the Ebates blog reported.
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9. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Property Taxes: $138,573
Even the Thanksgiving parade can’t get away from Uncle Sam. Previously located in Hoboken, N.J., the Macy’s Parade Studio completed work on its new Moonachie, N.J., home in 2011, CBS reported.
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, 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, The Smart Shopper reported.
10. How Far in Advance Marching Bands Apply to Be in the Parade: Over a Year
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 about 1 1/2 years before the desired performance date.
Only 12 supremely talented marching bands are selected each year. Some of the 2018 winners include the CNS H.S. Northstars Marching Band, the Grants Pass H.S. Marching Band & Color Guard and the Homewood Patriot Band.
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11. Number of People Watching the Parade: Over 50 Million
A major Thanksgiving tradition, approximately 50 million viewers tune into the parade from home each year, according to Mental Floss. Another 3.5 million revelers head to the streets of New York City to watch the parade in person.
Putting these numbers into perspective, Game 5 of the 2018 World Series attracted 17.6 million viewers, Variety reported. If you’re planning to visit Manhattan but don’t want to stand in the crowd, several hotels on the route have rooms overlooking the parade. Do note: Travel site Oyster warns hotels might charge up to three times the price of standard rates.
12. Number of People Who Work on the Thanksgiving Day Parade: 12,000
Putting on an event as large as the Macy’s parade requires a tremendous amount of assistance. Upward of 12,000 people work together to make it a success, including Macy’s employees who volunteer their time to the parade, The Smart Shopper reported.
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. Macy's Employees Volunteering on Thanksgiving Morning: Over 4,000
Many people wouldn’t consider offering to work on Thanksgiving morning, but more than 4,000 Macy’s employees volunteer their time to the parade each year, according to Reader’s Digest. Excited to be part of the tradition, staffers serve in a wide variety of roles, including balloon handler and balloon pilot.
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14. Total Thanksgiving Day Parade Marchers: 8,000
Considering roughly 8,000 people march in the Macy’s parade, according to a Macy’s press release, it might seem like it’s relatively easy to join in, 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.
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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.