By Grace Donnelly
November 22, 2017

Whether you’re watching from the comfort of your couch or join the 8,000 volunteers marching along its New York City route — as Fortune’s Polina Marinova did two years ago — for many people, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marks the start of the holiday season.

History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This year marks the 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition that began in 1924 to celebrate the expansion of the Macy’s store in Manhattan. That year it was billed as a Christmas parade, complete with an appearance by Santa, to kick off the holiday shopping season.

The photo below, though definitely an archive gem, isn’t from the first parade. It’s from the 1940 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

With a dopey clown and the kind of hippo you see only in a hangover, Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade trundles down Central Park West.
New York Daily News Archive NY Daily News via Getty Images

Thanksgiving Day Parade Route and Start Time

The 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks of at 9 a.m. EST on Thursday, Nov. 23 and lasts until noon. The parade route starts at 77th Street and Central Park West and makes its ways to 6th Avenue and 34th Street.

Though there are no credible threats against the event, security for the parade is a top priority this year. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Monday that New York Police Department presence at the parade will be “stronger than ever” following an attack in Manhattan last month that killed eight people.

Macy’s Parade Balloons

The balloons for Macy’s parade get inflated the beginning Wednesday afternoon at 1pm along Central Park West in Manhattan, but they’re created over the course of four to nine months beforehand in the Macy’s Parade Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 04: Illuminations presents Dr. Seuss' The Grinch debuts as a giant balloon during Macy's Balloonfest ahead of the 91st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 4, 2017 in East Rutherford City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's)
Eugene Gologursky Getty Images for Macy's

Balloons weren’t a part of the inaugural parade, but were introduced in 1927 and increased in number during the following years as participants found that the giant figures were more entertaining and easier to organize than live animals.

The parade took a hiatus during World War II and as the nation faced a rubber shortage, the deflated balloons were donated to the war effort.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 24: The Spongebob Sqaure Pants balloon floats down 6th Av, during the 90th Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2016 in New York City. Security was tight in New York City on Thursday for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade after ISIS called supporters in the West to use rented trucks in attacks as similar as the ones operated in France this summer where at least 86 people were killed.(Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez Getty Images

Cost of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s doesn’t release numbers about how much they spend the Thanksgiving Day Parade each year, but estimates put the average total cost for the event between $11.6 and $13.4 million. This includes the cost of creating and sponsoring new balloons and floats, the value of the facilities where they are put together, the cost of all the costumes, and the salaries of the 10,000 full-time staffers who organize the parade.

Just filling all the balloons with helium costs about $510,000.

People take part during the 90th Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2016 in New York City.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Where to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade

The event was first televised nationally in 1947 on NBC. You can watch the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the NBC network.

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