On November 23, Macy’s will hold its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. You probably know it as the loud, bright, slick event broadcast on TV before dinner is served and football starts. But the parade’s history is a pretty interesting walk through American history. An annual tradition since 1924, each year it gets a little splashier. The 2017 line-up will feature 25 giant character balloons, numerous floats, and more than 1,000 cheerleaders, dancers, and clowns and tons of people cheering in the streets. So hold on to your balloon strings, here at 16 weird, highly amusing, and fun facts about this only-in-America spectacle.
Four new balloons will debut this year.
New characters being added to the lineup include Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” a new version of the Grinch (he’ll be a “ballonicle,” or balloon that’s attached to and moved by a vehicle), and characters from “Super Wings” and “Paw Patrol.”
Balloons are inflated the night before the parade.
During the afternoon and evening before the parade, the balloons are inflated near the American Museum of Natural History just off Central Park West. The chore has become a spectator event, with people lining the streets and restaurants to watch the entertainment.
No seats or tickets are sold.
There are no designated seating areas for the parade, and no tickets are sold for it, making this a free event. (The bleachers you see on TV are for Macy’s employees.) To get a good viewing spot from the sidewalks, many spectators arrive by 6:30 a.m.
Some floats require as many as 90 handlers.
Hello Kitty looks sweet as candy, but she’s as tall as a 3-story building. It takes 90 handlers pulling her ropes to walk her through the parade.
In the early 2000s, Macy’s added a contemporary twist to the parade.
The retailer worked with artist Jeff Koons to feature funky balloons by contemporary artists such as himself, Takashi Murakami, and Keith Haring; the floats are now known as the Blue Sky Gallery.
Marching bands face stiff competition to get in.
Approximately 300 bands apply to appear in the parade each year, but just 12 are selected, making it quite a point of pride to be chosen.
Goodyear used to make the balloons.
For nearly six decades, Macy’s partnered with rubber company Goodyear to design and make all of its balloons. But in 1984, Macy’s took the job in-house. The Superman balloon – one of the last made by Goodyear – was also one of the longest at 100 feet.
In 1971, there were no balloons.
A torrential downpour grounded all of the inflatables for the first time ever. NBC aired clips from the previous year spliced in with the live feed.
President Kennedy was shot and killed just four days before the parade.
Macy’s grappled with canceling the event in 1963, but apparently the Kennedy family called to insist that the show must go on.
A nationwide shortage of helium once caused the parade to be held up, literally.
In 1958, the U.S. government asked Macy’s to forgo using helium due to a severe shortage of the gas. (It’s also used by scientists.) Macy’s agreed, but planners didn’t let that stop the parade – they used cranes instead to hold up balloons, which were inflated with air.
The parade was canceled during World War II.
The helium shortage wasn’t the only time Uncle Sam came calling. In 1942, the parade came to a stop when World War II broke out and rubber from the balloons was donated to the war effort. It didn’t start up again until 1945, after War’s End.
Bounty hunters once vied for balloons after the parade.
For the first few years of the parade, Macy’s had no plan for deflating balloons; they were simply released at the end of the route. From 1929 to 1932, the company attached tags that offered $25 gift cards to anyone who returned them. The crowd went crazy: Bounty hunters shot them down; two aviators caught balloons them mid-air. But when a 60-foot tiger balloon landed on a house on Long Island, a vicious tug of war erupted before the animal was shredded into pieces. The next year, parade officials corralled balloons themselves.
The first parade was thought up by employees.
It was 1924 when a group of Macy’s workers first asked the retailer to put on a parade about giving thanks and in celebration of the forthcoming Christmas season. “Many in the group [were] first-generation immigrants wanting to show pride in the new place their families [called] home,” explains Macy’s website.
In 1928, some balloon handlers floated off the ground, too.
Helium was used for the first time in 1927 to keep balloons afloat. But getting the technicalities right was still a work in progress. As a result, the following year, some balloon handlers were lifted 10 feet off the ground, and stayed that way for the length of the parade.
Each balloon fits into a 12-by-8-foot box, and takes just 15 minutes to deflate.
Because the parade’s floats and balloons have to be stored at a warehouse (an old Tootsie Roll factory) in New Jersey, the balloons come apart in sections and then are folded up, placed in boxes, and shuttled across the Hudson River to wait for their next appearances.
Snoopy has appeared more times as a balloon than any other character in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Charlie Brown’s famous canine pal first appeared in the 1968 parade. Since then, seven balloons have been made in his likeness, and Snoopy has appeared 40 times in the famous parade.
Want to fill in a few of the gaps your high school history books and mainstream museum visits have left when it comes to the contributions of women over the centuries? These seven museums throughout the country fill in some of the blanks as they celebrate the stories of women in the armed forces, sciences, arts, politics, and more.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
The only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), seeks to inspire dynamic exchanges about art and ideas with collections, exhibitions, programs, and online content.
The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 5,000 objects by over 1,000 artists like Frida Kahlo, Grandma Moses, and Georgia O’Keefe, as well as names that aren’t as well known, but should be. Each year the NMWA hosts ten world-class exhibitions featuring women artists. The museum is also a resource for facts about gender disparity in the arts.
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 12pm-5pm
- Admission Fees: Adults – $10; Seniors 65 and up – $8; Students – $8; Children 18 and under – Free
- Location: 1250 New York Ave NW, Washington, D.C.
United States Army Women’s Museum, Fort Lee, VA
The United States Army Women’s Museum is the only one of its kind – a museum dedicated to showcasing the history of contributions of women in the Army. From the American Revolution (where women had roles like laundresses and cooks) to the inception of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) to present-day where women serve in combat, stories of female patriots are preserved within the halls of the museum.
The museum is also an educational institution that provides military history training to soldiers and civilians.
- Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm
- Admission Fees: Everything is always free
- Location: 2100 ‘A’ Adams Avenue, Fort Lee, VA
International Women’s Air & Space Museum, Cleveland, OH
The International Women’s Air & Space Museum goes beyond Sally Ride and Amelia Earhart to document the history of all women in aviation and space, both past and present. Begun by a committee of Ninety-Nines (an international organization of women pilots), who saved memorabilia of women pilots, the museum opened in 1998.
The museum and its collection of artifacts, photographs, articles, textiles, art work, and paper items are located very close to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, and should not be missed when planning a visit to one of the other two.
- Hours of Operation: Daily from 8am-8pm
- Admission Fees: Free
- Location: Burke Lakefront Airport, Rm 165, 1501 N. Marginal Rd., Cleveland, OH
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA
Located on the Spelman College campus, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the the only museum in the nation that emphasizes art by women of the African Diaspora. These dynamic, important works are presented through exhibitions and programs.
The museum’s permanent collection dates back to the 1940s and is comprised of over 350 objects – including ethnographic, African, three-dimensional, polychrome, and wooden artifacts – that include African art and works by celebrated artists of African descent. The museum features female artists of descent from Cameroon, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and other regions.
- Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm; Saturday noon-4pm; closed holidays, summers, and official college breaks
- Admission Fee: Adults – $3 suggested donation
- Location: 350 Spelman Lane, Atlanta, GA
National First Ladies’ Library, Canton, OH
Where can you find a collection of miniature First Lady gown reproductions? At the National First Ladies’ Library. The museum isn’t about only the fashions of president’s wives, though. It’s the foremost repository of scholarly research, information, and education on the country’s First Ladies.
Part of the museum is located on the site of the family home of First Lady Ida McKinley. Another part of the museum – the education and research center – is at the former City National Bank building just a block away from the McKinley home. In the library is a rotating exhibit space, a 91-seat Victorian Theatre where films and documentaries on the first ladies are shown and lectures are held. The library also houses a collection of books somewhat similar to the first White House Library.
- Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday 9am-4pm; Sundays in June, July and August only 12pm-4pm
- Admission Fees: Adults – $7; Seniors – $6; Children 17 and under – $5
- Location: Museum/Saxton McKinley House. 331 S. Market Avenue; Education and Research Center, 205 S. Market Ave. Canton, OH
Pioneer Woman Museum, Ponca City, OK
Since 1958, the Pioneer Woman Museum has preserved the legacy of women who contributed to Oklahoma’s development. The 10,000 square-foot museum showcases the influence women had on the development of the state as well as the nation as a whole. In the museum’s education center visitors will find craft demonstrations, special exhibits, an interactive timeline, and the Pioneer Woman Walk of Fame.
The building’s entrance represents the iconic sunbonnet of pioneer women, and written on 20-foot tall copper bonnet are the words, “I See No Boundaries” – fitting words for a museum dedicated to the enduring spirit of women—past, present, and future. Outside the museum is the Pioneer Woman, a 30-foot tall bronze statue of a pioneer mother (in a sunbonnet, of course) with a Bible in her hand and courage and determination on her face.
- Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
- Admission Fee: Adults – $7; Seniors – $5; Students 6-18 – $4; Children 5 and under, and Active Military Personnel – Free
- Location: 701 Monument Road, Ponca City, OK
National Women’s Hall of Fame, Seneca Falls, NY
2017 inductees to the National Women’s Hall of Fame include food activist, Alice Paul; athlete, Aimée Mullins; playwright and essayist, Lorraine Hansberry; and geneticist, Janet Rowley, M.D. These diverse women are just a handful of the females, honored in the museum, who have influenced other women and the country. The museum is purposefully located in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the American Women’s Rights Movement.
This hall of fame is the nation’s oldest membership organization dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American Women. This group is 260+ women strong and grows each year. With special exhibits, events, and its annual Induction Weekend, the hall uses the stories of its inductees to help drive inspiration, innovation, and imagination.
- Hours of operation: Wednesday – Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday – Tuesday 12pm-4pm
- Admission Fee: Adults – $4; Students and Seniors – $3; Families – $8; Children 5 and under – Free
- Location: 76 Fall St, Seneca Falls, NY
For more than 50 years, the Delaware Antiques Show has brought fabulous functional and decorative arts objects to its curious attendees. Begun in 1963 as a fundraiser for a local hospital, the show has grown into one of the most acclaimed antiques gatherings in the country.
Today, it’s held at the Winterthur Museum, located in Wilmington and focused on early American decorative and applied arts, and proceeds benefit the institutions educational programs. From November 10–12, sixty distinguished dealers will offer some of the finest American antiques and decorative arts, including furniture, paintings, rugs, ceramics, silver, jewelry, and more. Though this show is relatively small, it is mighty – savvy collectors come here to seek out favored dealers and unique treasures they won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re not a diehard collector, don’t fret. The show is still fun to attend, and although the antiques dealers here are truly passionate, a big part of the show is focused on education. A wide variety of objects from public and private collections are on loan every year, creating a gallery-like exhibit space that has included everything from spice cabinets to weathervanes. This year’s exhibit, on loan from the Biggs Museum, features fine and decorative art objects of Mid-Atlantic regional significance from 1700 till the present day. Guest lectures are also part of the program, and the 2017 keynote will be delivered by award-winning architect Gil Schafer III, whose new book, A Place to Call Home, hit the shelves this fall.
If you’re new to collecting – or just curious about historical artifacts – seek out the “Find!” signs that dot various booths. These highlight objects of special interest; allow them to spark conversation with the dealers standing by. Most dealers love to talk shop about their wares and are excited to chat about collecting and their own passions.
Collecting should be fun, not intimidating. Many antiques shows openly welcome newbies, and the Delaware Antiques Show is no exception. Their down-to-earth guide, Tips for New Collectors, offers excellent advice for acclimating to the scene. The first pointer most experts propose? Collect what you enjoy. Whether that’s sailors’ Valentines or ball-and-claw chairs, look around, fall in love, and bring a new treasure home. A big added bonus? The State of Delaware has no sales tax, which should infuse your purchasing with all the more pleasure.
What is a catacomb? The simple definition is an underground cemetery connected by tunnels. The term is derived from “ad catacumbas,” meaning “near the hollows.” From the Holy Grail to a gilded Titanic, catacombs around the world hold an aura of mystery and legend. Here are some of the cities with the creepiest catacombs.
There are more than 40 catacombs beneath the city of Rome. In addition to the early Christian catacombs, the city contains Jewish and pagan ones as well. Originally thought to be the burial sites of martyrs, historians now agree the more than 6.5 million burials must have been for laypeople too. Roman law required cemeteries to be outside city limits. As space ran out, corpses were moved underneath the city. Many of the catacombs contain rooms with benches where families would have meals with the dead. Here are some of the most famous ones in the Eternal City:
- Catacombs of St.Callixtus: 16 popes were buried in St. Callixtus. It was the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. These catacombs take up an area of 90 acres, with 12 miles of tunnels on four levels that are more than 20 meters deep.
- Catacombs of Priscilla: Called the “Queen of Catacombs,” a great number of martyrs were buried here. It is the oldest catacomb mentioned in ancient Roman and Christian print.
- Catacombs of St. Domitilla: Rediscovered in 1593, the Catacombs of Domitilla extend about 17 kilometers on four levels.
- Catacombs of St. Sebastian: The burial of the martyr, San Sebastian, gives these catacombs their name. Both Christians and pagans were buried in the loculi wall tombs. The basilica above the burial site houses marble footsteps attributed to Jesus. In addition, the arrow that killed San Sebastian can be seen.
The Catacombs of Paris are famous for walls lined with skulls and bones. Similar to the Roman catacombs, these underground burials solved the problem of overflowing graveyards. Built much later, the Parisian catacombs burials began in the 18th-century. The tunnels were already in place below the city from 13th-century mining.
Prior to the catacombs, Parisian cemeteries stunk of rotting corpses. During a heavy spring rain in 1780, the walls of the Les Innocents cemetery broke flooding the streets with dead body parts. Thus, the city began moving the deceased to already existing mining tunnels. It took 12 years to move the six million bodies. Throughout the Parisian catacombs, the bones are arranged in macabre displays. Here you’ll find the largest population of skeletons on display.
Romans occupied Tunisia from 146 BC to 439 AD. Christianity was considered a threat to the empire. Early persecuted Christians used Tunisian catacombs to bury their dead and for hidden worship. The Sousse Catacombs contain approximately 15,000 bodies and extend five kilometers. They were discovered in 1888 on the site of the ancient, coastal city of Hadrumetum.
The Catacombs of Sousse are located west of the Medina. They are better preserved than the Catacombs of Rome. Also known as the Catacombs of the Good Shepherd, the walls of the tunnels and galleries include niches for oil lamps. Some of the graves are bricked over; others have been excavated where you can view human remains.
With a total length of approximately 2,500 kilometers, the Catacombs of Odessa are the longest in the world. The oldest tunnels date from the 17th-century. Like other catacombs, the tunnels were originally constructed beneath the city for mining. Later, they were used by smugglers. During WWII, the Ukrainians used the catacombs to launch surprise attacks on Nazi invaders.
Unlike other catacombs, the Odessa tunnels were not used for massive burial, although corpses of smugglers can be found. The tunnels are rumored to contain murdered Jews, a solid gold replica of the Titanic, and executed Nazis. In 2005, a teenage girl got lost in the tunnels during a New Year’s Eve Party. While her body was allegedly found two years later, there is some doubt of the veracity of this story.
Roman laws prohibited burial within the ancient city of Melite, as was common throughout the empire, so burials went underground. The St. Paul Catacombs offer the earliest evidence of Christianity on the island. They were actively used into the 4th-century and consist of more 30 hypogea, or underground chambers. The catacombs of St. Paul are the largest catacombs on Malta with an area of 2000 square meters. They offer a wider variety of tomb architecture. For example, unique baldacchino, or canopied tombs, are prevalent in the main chamber. Pagans, Christians, and Jews were buried side by side here.
Brno, Czech Republic
The Brno Ossuary is the most recent underground burial discovery. In 2001, 50,000 skeletons were discovered beneath the Church of St. James. Piled in neat rows, the bones were thought to have been moved from above ground cemeteries to make room for new burials in the 1600-1700s. The deaths were caused by the medieval plague, cholera epidemics, and the Swedish Siege of Brno during the Thirty Years’ War. The Brno Ossuary has the second largest quantity of skeletal remains in Europe behind the Parisian catacombs. Lacking tunnels, this burial site is considered an ossuary, a room that houses the dead. The Brno Ossuary consists of three rooms completely filled to the ceiling with skeletons. For preservation purposes, the bones were removed, cleaned and rearranged before opening to the public in 2012.
An estimated 25,000 to 70,000 skeletal remains line the walls of the catacombs below the San Francisco Monastery in Lima, Peru. These catacombs were in use until 1808 when a cemetery for commoners was built outside city limits. Famous for the intricate layout of bones in circular patterns, the San Francisco Catacombs were rediscovered in 1943. They connect to Lima’s cathedral and other churches via tunnels under the city. The placement of the bones in mandalas and geometric designs are evidence of a mysterious, metaphysical ritual unknown to modern scholars.
Catacombs can be found throughout Italy. Besides Rome, some of the most spectacular examples of these underground burials are found in Sicily. The Capuchin Monastery in Palermo houses the corpses of dead monks that underwent natural mummification. In 1597, new catacombs were built in ancient caves. Upon moving bodies to this new location, the monks discovered the natural mummies. The mummified friars’ faces were still recognizable. Their natural preservation was considered an act of God, and they were honored as relics. Wealthy Sicilians paid for mummification by the friars until 1783. It was considered a status symbol sought by the privileged class.
Beneath the Church Christ Cathedral in Dublin lies the largest crypt in Ireland. Famous for a mummified cat and rat playfully named “Tom and Jerry,” this medieval catacomb is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin. It houses Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. You can rent the crypt for your own private event or take a ghost tour at night.
Another infamous catacomb of Dublin is found at St. Michan’s Church. Mummies of famous and historic figures, such as a 400-year-old nun, fill the chambers. Other mummified inhabitants include an 800-year-0ld, six and a half foot tall crusader who had to have his feet cut off to fit in a coffin, as well as a thief whose hands were chopped off. Limestone walls and methane gas from rotting vegetation maintain the perfect climate for mummy preservation. Dracula author, Bram Stoker, visited these catacombs potentially inspiring his thrilling book.
In 1900, a donkey fell down a hole and discovered the Catacombs of Kom Ash Shuqqafa. This is the largest Roman burial site in Egypt. Started in the 2nd-century and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, the name of these catacombs translates to “Mounds of Shards.” There are piles of broken pottery in the area left behind by tomb visitors. It was bad luck to bring home a clay vessel that had been used while visiting the tombs, so family members would break them upon leaving. Art found in the burial site blends ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman styles. This is the only catacomb in the world where a mix of these three cultures’ art can be found.