Driving the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The Cars and People that Move the Event

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Following a scaled-down virtual event in 2020, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fully returns this year, and many are excited to kick off the holiday season with the treasured spectacle. 
To get ready for this year, we looked at some details behind the cars, drivers, and floats that make up the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—including the very important role that Ram trucks plays in the annual event.
Impress your family over dinner with these fun facts, and watch the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, Nov. 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (it’s live on the East Coast, and shown on a delay in other timezones).

Ram is the official truck of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Ram pickup trucks will be pulling all of the floats this year, making Ram the official truck of the parade, according to Car and Driver. It makes sense that powerful trucks would be needed for the job, since the floats can weigh up to 8 tons all loaded up traveling down the parade route.
In addition to pulling the actual floats, Ram trucks and ProMaster commercial vans are also usually used for behind-the-scenes tasks like moving costumes, tools, and more
Ram has actually been the official truck of the parade since 2015. For 30 years prior, the parade towing was done by GMC SUVs and pickup trucks.
While there didn’t seem to be information available about the actual Ram trucks towing this year’s parade as we were preparing this article, Car and Driver reported there were a mix of 1500s, 2500s, and 3500s towing the parade in 2019. And the honor of towing Santa’s sleigh? That went to a white 2500 Power Wagon. 

Drivers in the parade start their job Wednesday night 

There are as many as 90 people commanding the balloons, and they are all Macy’s employees and friends. But the actual drivers of the Ram trucks that pull the floats are members of New York City’s Theatrical Teamsters union, Local 817.
Many people don’t think about how the floats get to the parade. The actual parade begins on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, but the floats are built and stored in Moonachie, New Jersey, according to Car and Driver. 
To get to the parade starting point, the floats travel from New Jersey to Manhattan around midnight Wednesday—and prior to that trip, the floats, which can be as long as 50 ft, have to be broken down to a maximum size of 8.5 feet wide by 12.5 feet high, so they can go fit in the Lincoln Tunnel).
There are also additional trailers carrying attendan pieces, so that means there are more than 50 cars traveling in convoy, with police escorts. 
After the parade, the drivers must return the floats to New Jersey—but this time they are on their own, with no police escort or convoy, battling any Thanksgiving Day traffic.

Are there any car-themed floats in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

According to Macy’s, this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will have 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, 10 marching bands and nine performance groups.
One of the most well-known “car” floats is the McDonald’s Big Red Shoe Car, which would be a men’s size 266 if it was an actual shoe. 
Throughout the years, there have been a number of clown cars that still sometimes make an appearance, including a School Bus Clown Vehicle, a Fire Truck Clown Vehicle, and an Ambulance Clown Car.
While it’s not a car, of course, the parade always ends with the most festive mode of transportation—Santa’s sleigh. 

There will be six new floats in this year’s parade

New floats to look out for this year, according to CBS New York, are:
  • “Birds of a Feather Stream Together” by Peacock
  • “Celebration Gator” by the Louisiana Office of Tourism
  • “Colossal Wave of Wonder” by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions
  • “Magic Meets the Sea” by Disney Cruise Line
  • Tiptoe’s “North Pole”
  • “Gravy Pirates” by Heinz
The Heinz “Gravy Pirates” is actually a new parade element called the “Floalloonicle”—it’s a four-piece boat that’s part float, part balloon, and part vehicle.
In between telling your family all the new facts you learned about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade during dinner, download the Jerry app to quickly save on car insurance.
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