For Americans all over the nation, the Thanksgiving holiday represents a time for families to gather together and appreciate what they have. Sometimes that means a good meal featuring the traditional fare, including cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, stuffing, and turkey.
While eating is a big part of the day, what is on the television too plays a significant role as well. The National Football League has thrown its flag in the middle of Thanksgiving, broadcasting three games. But before kickoff and the cheers of sports fans ring out from living rooms coast to coast, the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is nearly as important.
Starting in 1924, the parade used to be a celebration of the Christmas holiday. It looked very different from what fans have come to expect today. According to the New York Times, when the parade started, it was a “procession,” which featured animals from the Central Park Zoo, including tigers and elephants.
When the famous balloons were introduced in the late 20s, the parade organizers released them into the sky when everything was done. Then there was a finders fee for all who found and returned the deflated balloons. The Times reported that a Felix the Cat balloon was released in 1927 and was destroyed when it hit high voltage lines.
The parade has been canceled a few times — most notably during World War II, as rubber and helium were needed for the war effort.
According to WUSA, the first national broadcast of the parade happened in 1948. The parade has been on television ever since. Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop the parade, though it was scaled back to a one-block show in 2020.
The Ever-Popular Snoopy
The year 1968 was a special one for the Macy’s parade, as it saw the introduction of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy. This character, which is still popular today, joined the festivities as “Flying Ace Snoopy” and was a part of the parade each year until 2016. He returned in 2017, and according to the Times, a giant Snoopy balloon has been featured in more Macy’s parades than any other character.
He’s Not From Outer Space, He Just Works There
Fans saw Snoopy for the first time in 1968, but they also saw someone for the first time in the parade. Captain James T. Kirk was a part of the Soap Box Derby float. In full costume, William Shatner waved at spectators and fans along the route of the parade.
This was because NBC was broadcasting the parade that year, and as most know, “Star Trek” aired on the network. The float itself was sponsored by General Motors, who sponsored the Soap Box Derby float in 1968 and 1969.
Shatner Returned in 2018
While not atop of a float, the actor was a part of the Macy’s parade in 2018 as a television spectator. And since he’s Canadian, and their Thanksgiving holiday is the second Monday in October, it must have felt like a typical workday for the captain.
Unfortunately, while watching the parade, Shatner was pulled into a discussion on Twitter about a same-sex couple kissing during a dance routine promoting the Broadway musical, “The Prom.” According to Entertainment Tonight, this was the first same-sex kiss ever to be broadcast during the parade.
As he often does, Shatner commented on the controversy:
Those who disagreed with Shatner’s opinion piled on, but the captain was not hearing it. He responded:
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