Now in its 91st year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is widely regarded as the official kick-off of the holiday season. Over 22 million viewers are expected to watch from home, while another 3.5 million will brave the cold to catch the parade live as it rolls through New York City.
“We’ve been doing this since 1924 … and this parade is certainly unique as well,” John Piper, the vice president of Macy’s Studio tells Fox News. “It’s a celebration and it’s an opening for the holidays for all of the holiday events.”
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Macy’s Studio is the team in charge of, well, just about everything related to the annual parade, from designing the floats (five this year) and transporting them to Manhattan from the studio’s New Jersey headquarters, to even hand-painting the high-flying balloons.
Those balloons, too, have been a staple of the parade since 1927, when Macy’s introduced Felix the Cat and decided to stop using live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. They didn’t contain helium either, so handlers held them up with sticks.
Nine decades later, helium isn’t the only thing that’s changed.
“Back when I first started, everything was done with hand-drawn drafting,” says Piper. Today, with advanced 3-D technology, we are able to do some things that are a little more complex, which makes it a little more challenging. But the end result is still the same.”
But Piper — and the rest of the magicians at the Macy’s Studio — think of their jobs as more than “just another day at the office.”
“We are caretakers of something that genuinely reaches into the hearts of everybody in America and puts a smile on their face on the first day of the holiday season,” he says.
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Watch the video above for a sneak peek inside the Macy’s Studio, and and Happy Thanksgiving.