Whether celebrating ethnic pride, a holiday, or an excuse to strut your finest costume creations, there’s nothing like a parade. In a place like New York City, there’s never any shortage of good reasons to throw a moving party down one of the many major thoroughfares. Though there’s still plenty to do in the chill months, New Yorkers are always eager to get outside and celebrate-no matter the occasion. Read along for the fascinating origins of some of NYC’s most famous marches.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Considered by many to be the main event in NYC parades, this march is the world’s largest and has an unlikely backstory. While it currently begins on 77th Street and Central Park West on the Upper West Side, the first Thanksgiving Parade in 1924 actually began all the way in Newark, New Jersey and was sponsored by local department store Bamberger’s. Macy’s took the helm the following year and brought the parade to Manhattan, where it has been hosted ever since. Organizers added animal balloons in 1927, with original character balloon Felix the Cat arriving in 1931.
Puerto Rican Day Parade
There are few groups who know how to throw a block party as well as NYC’s sizable Puerto Rican community. This parade stretches up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan from 44th to 86th Street, but unofficial parties dot the landscape throughout all five boroughs on the second Sunday in June. The parade began in 1958 and has become a major attraction on NYC’s cultural calendar. Drawing over two million spectators every year, the official parade is one of the largest outdoor events in the United States.
St. Patrick’s Day
Thanks in part to New York’s sizeable Irish-American community, This parade is the largest St. Patrick’s Day gathering in the world (yes, including Ireland itself). It’s also one of the oldest, with marching first happening in 1762 by homesick Irish soldiers in the colonial British Army. Today’s parade goes up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th, coming to a close right outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Can’t make the festivities? Like it’s Thanksgiving equivalent, NYC’s is the only St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country that’s aired live on national TV.
This Greenwich Village march is where Manhattan’s creative types can really put their best (costumed) foot forward. Local artists started the parade in 1973, and puppeteers soon saved their best work for October 31st. The neighborhood’s status as a beacon for artists means there’s never a shortage of fun and creative costumes and floats. Unique among NYC’s parades, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade allows anyone in a costume who shows up on time to march without any registration process. This open-door policy means that recent parades have featured over 60,000 costumed revelers.
A tribute to Coney Island’s status as a seaside escape, the mermaid parade has been the city’s foremost celebration of summer since it began in 1983. In a city filled with unique attractions, this parade’s showmanship and craft make it unmissable for adherents of the outlandish. Costumes include not only the titular mermaids, but various other sea creatures, sailors, pirates, sharks, and just about any other oceangoing character Brooklyn’s creative minds can come up with. Celebrities ranging from Queen Latifah, to Harvey Keitel, to Moby have claimed the throne of King and Queen of the proceedings.