The Thanksgiving Kind of Art: Inflatable Sculptures


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1984

This fun tradition started almost a century ago: the world’s largest department store, Macy’s, hosted its first parade in 1924. Every year Americans expect to get thrilled by the inflatable sculptures – the symbol of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. However, back then the procession was known as ‘Christmas Parade’. Along with the floats, live animals participated in the event, as Macy’s borrowed them from the Central Park Zoo.

The procession was a huge success, and Macy’s decided to make it an annual occurrence. The giant balloons were actually debuted in 1927. Today, we can undoubtedly call it an inflatable art – the floating humongous figures, more resembling sculptures rather than simple balloons, are made annually to surprise the spectators.


The serpent figure, 1927. Photo: Walter Kelleher

The popularity grew as the parade started to get broadcasted in the 1950s. However, still thousands of tourists and local enthusiasts pack Broadway and the nearby streets to see this march of these inflatable iconic pop culture characters. Start your Thanksgiving day with watching this childish, joyful, sadness-proof show: a symbiosis of pop art, animation, performance, music, dance (remember those famous Rockettes?) will sure cheer you up for the whole day. Happy Thanksgiving!


Photo: Nick Petersen, 1951


The Rockettes. Photo: Paul Demaria, 1966


Photo: Esther Bubley, 1962

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