4. The balloons used to be released into the air after the parade

A dog balloon floats in the air at an early  Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photograph Courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.

Before 1933, since the city did not have set procedures for deflating parade balloons after the parade finished, parade workers simply released the balloons into the sky at the end of the route. The balloons would then float around for about a week before falling to the ground. Attached to the balloons were tags with return instructions. If you found a deflated balloon and returned it to Macy’s, you could get a $100 reward. These free-floating balloons, unfortunately, caused many mishaps.

One year, a recently released balloon wrapped around the wing of a plane and caused it to go into a tailspin. Another hit an electric wire and was set ablaze. In another incident, a balloon came down atop a house on Long Island, inciting a tug-of-war between neighbors. In the 1930s, the practice of letting the balloons fly free was ended. Today, the balloons are deflated at the end of the route.