Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by the Numbers: You Won't Believe How Many Clowns!

Here's a Sneek Peek at New Floats in Annual Holiday Event

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The Ocean Spray Cranberry Thanksgiving Day float
The Ocean Spray Cranberry Thanksgiving Day float

"It's probably the only place you'll see Dolly Parton in a van talking to Kermit the Frog."

So says John Piper, VP of Macy's Studio, whose team is busily putting together the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade from a cavernous factory in Moonachie, N.J. Mr. Piper, who has done this for 35 years, laid out some mind-blowing logistics of how Macy's coordinates all those balloons, floats, bands and celebrities along Manhattan streets on Thanksiving Day. Mr. Piper, along with a team from Ram, which is the "official vehicle" of the event -- meaning it is providing 75 trucks to tow the floats -- gave Ad Age a sneek peek at some of the stunning statistics on what it takes to put on the annual spectacle.

One first-timer in the parade will be KFC, which is representing Colonel Sanders' road trip in a 17-foot white Cadillac (sorry, Ram) from Corbin, Ky., the site of his first KFC restaurant, to New York City. The float is marked with the routes taken and, of course, the colonel himself is aboard. Mr. Piper said the float is three bus lanes wide and 12 feet tall. It is partly disassembled for transport to New York City for the parade and takes five boom cranes to put together.

Other branded floats this year: Hallmark's recreation of a home at Christmas complete with a fireplace that looks like it's actually burning (Mariah Carey will ride this float); a huge Ocean Spray Cranberry float with an enormous goose and turkey wearing waders for the bog (the band Train will be aboard); a Peanuts float complete with Charlie Brown's sad little Christmas tree celebrating the TV special's 50th anniversary; and Build-A-Bear Workshop float that features a bear astronaut.

All of them will be pulled by Ram trucks. When asked whether people would actually notice the trucks in the parade, Todd Brown, brand manager of the Ram 1500, said they would. "The parade shows our capability and style in a different venue than consumers are used to," he said.

Here are some fun facts and figures about the parade.

  • This is the 89th annual Macy's Day Parade. The retailer began planning the 90th a month ago -- 13 months in advance.
  • It takes six hours to assemble the 26 parade floats once they make their trip from New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel.
  • There are 40 tons of sandbags holding down the balloons, which take 90 minutes to inflate.
  • There will be 12 marching bands who will practice in front of Macy's in a 15-minute window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. the morning of the parade.
  • A staff of eight costumers oversee 230 people who will dress over 4,000 of the marchers in two-and-a-half hours.
  • There will be more than 850 clowns put into makeup. They meet on "clown corner."
  • The first float will be towed back to New Jersey before the parade ends.
  • The parade route will be lined with 3.5 million spectators.
  • Fifty million viewers are expected to tune in. (A company does not have to buy an ad in the telecast in order to have a float in the parade).
  • The Hallmark float weighs 8 tons.
  • There are 10,000 marchers.
  • The last float contains Santa Claus and he can't be late. "If he doesn't get to the front of Macy's by 11:56 a.m., the world ends," said Mr. Piper.
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