10 Longest-Running Balloon Floats In 'Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade'

by Susan Ryant

When you're not watching Thanksgiving time favorites like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or every single Thanksgiving episode of Bob's Burgers, you're probably spending the day watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A Thanksgiving Day staple since 1924, this parade is loved for its musical performances, extravagant floats, and balloon characters that all help to kick off the holiday season.

With almost 96 parades and counting that have traveled down the streets of New York City to celebrate the holidays, the event has seen over 200 different balloons in its almost 10-decade run. But some balloons become so popular, they stick around for several years, while one very special character will celebrate over 40 parades this year.

10/10 Big Bird - 19 Parades

Big Bird in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Sesame Street has played a part in the Macy's Parade since 1974 with the debut of their float that has featured several muppets over the years, but only one sometimes appeared in person and as a balloon.

Big Bird made his parade premiere in 1988 dressed in an ABC's Christmas sweater and winter beanie, attire he remained in until 2001 when he changed into a red scarf and played symbols for six years until the balloon's retirement in 2006.

9/10 Smokey Bear - 20 Parades

Smokey Bear in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Smokey Bear is everyone's favorite advertisement icon who always reminded viewers that only you can prevent wildfires. And in 1966, Smokey's 420-pound balloon made its first float down 7th Ave in celebration of NBC's musical special The Ballad of Smokey Bear.

Smokey Bear appeared in the parade consecutively until 1981, then made his return in 1993 to celebrate his 50th anniversary the following year. Smokey's balloon wasn't seen again for over two decades until his comeback in 2019. He later missed the 2020 parade due to COVID-19, then returned in 2021 with plans of floating across New York City in 2022.

8/10 Mickey Mouse - 20 Parades

Mickey Mouse in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

The big cheese of The Walt Disney Company has appeared in 20 Macy's Parades with many different looks. The beloved character's very first balloon was created in Akron, Ohio in the fall of 1934, but was never seen live due to a fire at the storage center it was being kept in destroying it.

After workers scrambled to rebuild the balloon, Mickey Mouse made his parade debut, appearing for two years before being retired and brought back with a brand new look in 1971 to promote the grand opening of Walt Disney World. Mickey has since appeared in the parade as a bandleader and a cruise ship captain.

7/10 Sinclair's Dino - 21 Parades

Sinclair Dino in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

The Sinclair Oil Corporation's adorable mascot Dino first appeared in the parade in 1963 as a green, helium balloon that measured the same exact size of an Apatosaurus. Dino wouldn't be seen again in float form until 2015 when a brand new version was introduced to the parade route in celebration of the company's 100th anniversary.

This new Dino float remained in the parade until 2021 when it was retired and an all-new float was created to acknowledge the company's acquisition from HollyFrontier. This new float makes its parade debut in 2022 and features Dino giving a ride to a little baby dino friend to symbolize the company's growing family.

6/10 Kermit The Frog - 22 Parades

Kermit in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

When the Macy's Parade got a new executive in 1977, her first choice for a new balloon was Kermit the Frog from The Muppets. Kermit's new addition to the parade had a decade-long run from 1977 through 1987, despite a major accident that sent it crashing to the ground during 1985's parade.

Three years after his retirement, Kermit came back in 1990 to pay tribute to his late creator Jim Henson. After the balloon's second major accident during the 1991 parade, it was officially retired and replaced with a new balloon in 2002, which ran the parade route off and on until 2012.

5/10 Pikachu - 22 Parades

Pikachu in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

It seems like Pikachu has always been a Macy's parade balloon, but the Pokémon star premiered in his first parade in 2001, coinciding with the franchise's fifth anniversary. This balloon remained in the parade for five years before being replaced with a new balloon that would now feature the famous PokéBall.

Due to some over-inflation just before the 2012 parade that caused the balloon's ears to burst, its last parade was in 2013 before being replaced with an all-new balloon that was decked out in a Christmas scarf. This balloon was replaced 7 years later with one that featured Pikachu with Eevee on a PokéBall sled to celebrate the franchise's 25th anniversary.

4/10 Harold The Fireman - 25 Parades

Harold the Fireman in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Harold the Fireman is known as an original Macy's character who made his parade debut as a balloon in 1948. Harold wouldn't be seen again until the parade's 70th anniversary in 1996 when he would return with a new design as a novelty balloon.

Harold has remained in the parade every single year up until his retirement in 2017. The balloon later appeared in the 2019 parade, and after having to miss the 2020 parade due to COVID-19 and skipping 2021, Harold is set to return to the parade route in 2022.

3/10 Rocky And Bullwinkle - 26 Parades

Bullwinkle in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

After The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show moved from ABC to NBC in 1961, Bullwinkle made his Macy's Parade debut that same year as a balloon, remaining in the parade for over two decades without his squirrel sidekick due to the idea of Rocky's balloon being scrapped and never created.

After a major accident in 1982 and over 20 years' worth of wear and tear, the balloon was retired and reimagined for the parade's 70th anniversary in 1996. After missing the next few parades, Rocky and Bullwinkle appeared on their newly-designed balloon in 1999, and due to cold weather deflating Rocky, Bullwinkle made his final appearance in the 2000 parade.

2/10 Ronald McDonald - 29 Parades

Ronald McDonald in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Fast food chain McDonald's made its parade debut in 1966 as a float, but it wasn't until 1987 that its mascot Ronald McDonald premiered as a balloon, posing in a handspring and holding a bouquet of colored balloons. This float remained in the parade off and on until it was retired in 1994.

Ronald returned to the parade in 2000, this time in an upright pose without his balloon bouquet, and was in the parade every year until he got a Christmastime makeover in 2009 featuring ice skates and a scarf. This balloon would remain in the parade until 2015 when Ronald would appear in a red Christmas sweater until 2020. The most recent Ronald balloon features the clown holding a red heart.

1/10 Snoopy - 43 Parades

Snoopy in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Of all the characters to appear in the Macy's Parade, Snoopy from The Peanuts has floated over New York City the most times, and in the most variations. Snoopy has had the honor of appearing in 43 parades, making him a staple of the holiday event.

As an aviator, in a Macy's sweater, on ice skates, in a party hat, as the Flying Ace, with his buddy Woodstock, and most famously, as an astronaut, Snoopy has taken flight over New York City off and on since his parade debut in 1968, and will continue his reign as the most-featured balloon as an astronaut in 2022.

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