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What was different about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1960?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic American tradition that has been held annually in New York City since 1924. Over the decades, the parade has evolved and changed with the times. The 1960 Macy’s parade marked several notable firsts and differences from parades of prior years.

New Giant Balloons

One of the most exciting parts of the Macy’s parade each year are the giant character balloons floating down the parade route. 1960 saw the introduction of several new giant balloons:

  • Smokey Bear – The iconic forest fire prevention mascot made his parade debut in 1960 as a 41-foot tall balloon.
  • Popeye – The famous cartoon sailor by E.C. Segar was transformed into a 56-foot tall balloon.
  • Happy Dragon – A brand new original character balloon designed by Michael Smollins.

These new balloons joined parade favorites like Bullwinkle J. Moose to entertain the crowds.

New Floats

In addition to new balloons, the 1960 parade featured several new float designs:

  • Alice in Wonderland – An elaborate float based on the classic storybook.
  • Winter Wonderland – A frosty float with skating snowmen.
  • Tomorrowland – A futuristic space-themed float promoting Disney’s new Tomorrowland area.

The creativity of the float designers was on full display with these imaginative creations.

High School Marching Bands

High school marching bands from across the country have long been a staple of the Thanksgiving parade. The 1960 parade debuted marching bands from the following states:

State High School Band
California Pasadena High School Band
Texas Kilgore Rangerette High School Band
Ohio Steubenville High School Band
Oklahoma Chickasha High School Band

The out-of-state bands provided some musical variety to the parade.

Celebrity Guests

Part of the fun of watching the parade each year is spotting celebrity guests waving from floats. 1960’s parade featured appearances by these famous faces:

  • Shirley Temple – The former child star rode the winter wonderland float in a fur coat and tiara.
  • Jimmy Durante – The actor and singer clowned around on the Alice in Wonderland float.
  • Roy Rogers – The famous singing cowboy posed with Dale Evans on the Tomorrowland float.

Seeing these Hollywood stars join in the festivities added to the celebratory atmosphere.

A Growing Event

The 1960 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade reflected the growth and popularity of the annual event. Some key facts and figures:

  • Over 1 million people lined the parade route, one of the largest crowds up to that point.
  • 12 giant balloons and 16 floats participated in the parade.
  • The parade route stretched longer than ever before, running 2.5 miles down Central Park West to Herald Square.
  • 33 marching bands with over 1,500 musicians performed.
  • The parade was broadcast coast-to-coast on TV for the first time, gaining a wider audience.

The increasing scale of the parade demonstrated its growing prestige as a national Thanksgiving tradition.

Enhanced Television Broadcast

As mentioned, 1960 marked the first year the parade was covered on network TV from coast-to-coast. The broadcast on NBC was hosted by Betty White and Lorne Greene. New technical enhancements were put in place for the broadcast, including:

  • A versatile mobile camera crane that could move up and down the parade route.
  • Miniature wireless microphones placed around the route to capture sound.
  • Improved camera lenses capable of close-up shots.

These innovations allowed viewers across America to experience the spectacle and excitement of the parade more vividly than ever before.

Focus on Space Age

1960 was the dawn of the space age, with the Cold War space race accelerating. The parade reflected this focus on space, the future, and science fiction with floats like:

  • Orbitron – A spinning metal sphere with astronauts on top.
  • Moon Explorer – A rocket ship headed to the moon with astronauts waving.
  • Space Base – A futuristic space station float.

These intergalactic floats captured the imagination and excitement around new frontiers in space travel and exploration.


The 1960 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a memorable event that built upon tradition while introducing new innovations. Bold new balloons, creative floats, talent-filled marching bands, and a focus on the expanding possibilities of the future characterized the 1960 parade. Enhanced television coverage brought the magic to more American households than ever. The 1960 parade paved the way for the even bigger and better holiday events that followed in the adventurous decades ahead.