The first Macy’s parade, in 1924, looked very different from today’s celebration. Animals from the Central Park Zoo, including elephants and tigers, joined the procession. The giant balloons that the parade is now known for did not show up until a few years later.
In the late 1920s, Macy’s began releasing its balloons into the sky after the festivities, with a monetary reward offered for their return.
The New York Times reported on the various places where the balloons landed. In 1928, a balloon called the Sky Tiger descended on a Long Island neighborhood where “a tug of war ensued for its possession.” Another balloon was found broken in half and floating in the East River, “pursued by two tugboats.”
In 1931, the balloons included a 287-foot-long dragon that was held by 29 men. Macy’s released it and about 16,000 other balloons, many of them much smaller. Some carried postcards that could be brought to Macy’s for a prize.