Tuning into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual turkey-day tradition for millions of people across the U.S. The parade was launched in 1924, and was televised for the very first time in 1939—75 years ago!
In the earliest years of the event, live animals like elephants, monkeys, and bears were marched along the parade route through New York City. But in 1927, the live animals were phased out for a more humane alternative: huge, inflatable balloons, which have since become the parade’s signature.
The first balloon to join the parade was Felix the Cat. Unlike the balloons that fly in the parade today, this one was filled with ordinary air instead of helium. Felix’s introduction had its ups and downs. At a certain point along the route, it bumped into telephone wire and caught fire! Felix was quickly removed from the parade that year, but made a triumphant return in 1928.
In the years since Felix’s fiery debut, Macy’s has premiered dozens of new balloons. All are built to epic proportions and filled with helium to keep them afloat. This year, there will be five inflatable newcomers: Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington Bear, the Red Power Ranger, Eruptor from Skylanders, and a holiday version of Pikachu. Each one of these enormous balloons requires 90 human handlers to make sure it doesn’t drift away!
The Red Power Ranger float is as long as 13 bicycles. If the average bicycle is 68 inches long, set up and solve a proportion to find the length of the Power Ranger balloon.