Over three million cheering spectators lining the streets of Manhattan were treated to the awkward sight of Elmo the puppet singing together with Big Bird at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The potentially inappropriate decision by the makers of Sesame Street follows directly in the wake of allegations that Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the much-loved red Muppet sexually abused up to four young men.
Taking their place among stalwarts such as Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Spider-Man and Kermit the Frog, Elmo and his buddies have long been a fixture in the parade enjoyed by up to 50 million people watching from the warmth of their homes.
Despite the controversy, organizers said they hoped the parade will lift the spirits of New Yorkers still recovering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and thousands of those affected were given front-row seats by Macy’s.
Unrepentant, the makers of Sesame Street had given prior warning that they would not pull the loveable red monster from the float.
Yesterday a representative for Macy’s told TMZ: “Elmo will be joining his Muppet friends on the Sesame Street float with an alternate puppeteer bringing him to life.
“Current events have no bearing on Sesame’s participation in the Parade and we are confident their world-renowned, family-friendly entertainment and educational programming will continue to bring kids and families joy for decades.”
However, Twitter lit up with those who found the appearance of a character now unfortunately linked to sexual abuse claims odd.
Meanwhile, beneath blue skies and 50-degree temperatures, the huge balloons were carried along a new route down 6th Avenue by 8,000 trained wranglers.
It kicked off at 9:00 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West, continued on to Columbus Circle and turned onto Central Park South. The parade then snaked down Sixth Avenue and headed from 59th Street down to 34th Street, making its final stop at Macy’s Herald Square.
The helium balloons joined 28 floats, 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers, 900 clowns, 11 marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus. There was also an appearance by Miss USA winner, Olivia Culpo, who grinned as she waved at the screaming spectators.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012
The nation’s biggest singing stars and celebrities also entertained the crowds, including Call Me Maybe songstress Carly Rae Jepsen, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Flo Rida and Whoopi Goldberg, The Muppets and the U.S. Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics known as The Fab Five.
Some parade-goers had camped out overnight to get a good spot, while others came well-prepared with folding chairs.
Alan Batt and his 11-year-old twins, Kyto and Elina, watched the parade at the end of the route, seemingly too far away for a good view. But they had an advantage: Two tall stepladders they hauled over from their apartment eight blocks away – one for each twin.
“We’re New Yorkers,” the 65-year-old Alan Batt said.
“We know what we’re doing.”
With the height advantage, “I get to see everything!” Kyto Batt said.
But it’s not all joy as the parade snakes through the city, with Today host Matt Lauer coming under fire from viewers for his on-air blunders, while others criticized the decades-long tradition going ahead amid world helium shortages.
Yet others stayed in the festive mood while watching the parade, with organizers saying they hope that the display will help lift the spirits of New Yorkers who are still recovering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
In a special tribute to those suffering from the effects of the hurricane and those helping the victims, the parade featured a float dedicated to first responders and each person marching in the lineup wore a Red Cross pin.
Macy’s also gave 5,000 tickets to families affected by the storm and organized transportation to whisk them to the route.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city, along with local groups and businesses, is organizing 26,500 Thanksgiving meals for those hit by the storm.
“Those people who don’t have heat, electricity, water, we have a responsibility to get them back and get their lives back and maybe next year they’ll be back here smiling as well,” Michael Bloomberg said.
Speaking to CBS before the parade, Michael Bloomberg revealed he would be spending his Thanksgiving Day visiting police and firefighters in the Rockaways before thanking volunteers.
Between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the dozens of flattened balloons depicting comic book characters were all laid out on the ground around the Museum of Natural History and blown up with helium to their full size.
“Each one of the elements in the parade start as a simple sketch, and we sit with the artist and talk about what we want to see come to life,” Amy Kule, executive producer of the parade, told 9News.
Spectators who decided to brave the chill and come out Wednesday to witness the last-minute preparations for the main event got a chance for get a close look at their favorite balloons without jostling for space with three million other people.
The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924 when it was known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade and starred animals from the Central Park Zoo. In 1927, it debuted its first helium character balloon, Felix the Cat.
The practice of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving Eve is a phenomenon first observed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 but was not formally made official until President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
The presidential turkey pardon is an interesting White House tradition that has captured the attention of the public in recent years. Live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents since the Lincoln administration. The turkey pardon ceremony has been said to date back to 1947, when President Harry Truman received a turkey as a gift from the National Turkey Federation. The Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of this.
The resident of the Executive Mansion began receiving complimentary turkeys from the National Turkey Federation in 1947 and the gift was recognized by a reception, typically held in the White House Rose Garden.
These birds though were destined to grace the holiday feast at the White House and were presented to the president before they were placed on a platter.
But in 1963, when the glamorous Democrat received his bird, he decided to send the bird back to the farm from whence it came and announced: “We’ll just let this one grow.”
John F Kennedy was the first US President to offer mercy to the national turkey in 1963, an annual gift from the National Turkey Federation
Then later under the Nixon administration, the birds were sent to a Washington-area petting farm instead of getting the chop – and every president since has followed suit.
But the White House notes that in the early era of the presidential acts of mercy, no official pardon was provided – the president would just announce that the turkey would not be killed.
It wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, that a turkey was officially pardoned for the first time. Each year since the President has formally pardoned a turkey and spares it from ending up on the Thanksgiving table. Since 2005, the turkeys have been flown to Disneyland, where they serve as grand marshals of the theme park’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade and live out the rest of their lives at Frontierland.
Since Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, he has enacted a tradition of pardoning two turkeys instead of just one.
Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has kicked off the holiday season in New York City. More than 2.5 million people line the streets every year to see giant balloons, floats, marching bands, and waving celebrities (while 44 million more tune in to the NBC TV broadcast).
This year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will continue an 85-year tradition with new giant helium character balloons, spectacular new floats, and special performances.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by the numbers: The parade will feature more than 10,000 participants; 28 floats; 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, balloonicles and balloonheads; 1,600 cheerleaders, dancers and performance group members; 900 clowns; 11 marching bands; a troupe of celebrity performers; and the man of the season, Santa Claus.
New Macy’s Parade Balloons and Floats for 2012
For the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, some spectacular new giant balloons will take to the skies over New York City. New balloons will include The Elf on the Shelf, Hello Kitty flying high in her new airplane, and Papa Smurf.
New Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats will feature tributes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, March Madness, the Gibson “Les Paul” guitar, Pepperidge Farms goldfish, and a giant cookie dough bowl.
Celebrities Join the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Stars participating in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade festivities will include Carly Rae Jepson, Flo Rida, The Wanted, Karmin, Neon Trees, Cody Simpson, Jimmy Fallon & The Roots, Jennette McCurdy, Chris Isaak, the U.S. Olympic gold medalist gymnastics team, the Muppets, the Rockettes, and more.
See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will start at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 24th, 2011 and end at approximately noon.
Planning to view the parade in person this year? Here’s what you need to know.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 77th Street and Central Park West, march south on Central Park West, then turn onto Central Park South and march down a new path via 6gh Avenue to 34th Street. At 34th Street, the Parade will turn west and march to 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square. See a map of the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade continues an 85-year tradition with new giant helium character balloons, spectacular new floats, and special performances
Best Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Viewing Locations: Organizers say you’ll have the best views on Central Park West between 61st and 72nd Streets.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Viewing Tips You can’t buy tickets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s free and open to the public, but you won’t be able to see much unless you plan ahead.
Make sure you get there early if you want a good view. The crowd starts to form as early as 6:30AM for a sort of informal pre-parade street party. Stop for donuts and coffee and have breakfast al fresco while you wait.
Macy’s advises people to leave folding chairs at home. They become cumbersome when the crowds start filling up the sidewalk.
Don’t forget to dress warmly. November in New York gets pretty chilly after a couple of hours outside. Layers are always a good bet.
If you would rather stay inside, you can watch the parade live on NBC’s Today Show from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
Getting to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The New York City subway system is your easiest option for getting to the parade.
Take the D to 34 St./Herald Square or 59 St./Columbus Circle.
Take the C to 42 St./Times Square, 50 St./8th Ave., 59 St./Columbus Circle, 72 St./Central Park West, or 81 St./Central Park West.
Take the 1,2,3 to 42 St./Times Square or 72 St./Broadway. The 1 local will also stop at 50 St./Broadway and 59 St./Columbus Circle.
The 86th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin on Thursday, November 22, 2012, at 9 a.m.
The parade travels down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle along Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square (34th Street).
There will be a new parade route for 2012, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will still begin at 77th Street & Central Park West and end at Macy’s Herald Square.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Public Viewing Areas
• Central Park West: West side of street from 70th Street to Columbus Circle & east side of street from 70th to 65th
• Columbus Circle: West side of street
• 6th Avenue: between 58th & 34th Streets
• 34th Street: south side of street between Broadway & 7th Avenue
The 86th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin on Thursday, November 22, 2012, at 9 am
Tips For Attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
In order to get a good viewing spot, many people arrive before 6:30 a.m. the morning of the parade to stake out space along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. Be sure to wear plenty of warm clothes and bring a thermos full of coffee or hot cocoa, as it can be quite cold. The duration of the parade depends on where you view it from – near the beginning of the route, it will last about 1 1/2 hours, closer to Macy’s, the parade will last closer to 3 hours. You can also book a hotel room with a view of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. For meeker, the parade will be aired on NBC from 9 a.m. until noon.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation
If you’d like to get a chance to see the balloons as they get blown up, on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 you can watch the inflation of the 25 parade balloons from 3 – 10 p.m. near the American Museum of Natural History just off Central Park West between 77th St. and 81st St.