The first balloon character, Felix the Cat, appeared in the 1927 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1927, this balloon was filled with air, but in subsequent years, balloons were filled with helium.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began as an employee event in 1924 known as the Macy's Christmas Parade. Employees wore vibrant costumes and marched to the Macy's flagship location on 34th Street with floats and animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The parade was renamed the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 1927 and began to use inflated balloons instead of zoo animals.
In 2013, it was estimated that 3.5 million people watched the parade in New York City, and over 50 million people viewed the TV broadcast of the parade.