It's Parade Time!


by Kathy Wolfe

Everybody loves a parade! In conjunction with the New Year’s Day parades, Tidbits marches along several parade routes, bringing you the info on these processions.

•   Ticker-tape parades are a well-known occurrence in New York City. The first such event took place in 1886 and honored the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Back then, 1-inch (2.54 cm) strips of paper were used to print stock quotes from the ticker machine. Many of the offices along the Broadway parade route were stock brokers and threw the tape out of their office windows on those below, giving the tradition the name of ticker-tape parade. When the stock ticker was replaced with electronic boards in the 1960s, folks used shredded paper and confetti.

•  The mayor of New York City is the one who decides who receives the honor of a ticker-tape parade. The route is called Canyon of Heroes and winds from a section of lower Broadway through New York’s financial district. Each honoree has a black granite marker embedded in the sidewalk along the route, inscribed with the date and description of the achievement. Astronauts, military personnel, athletes, and political dignitaries are among those who have been honored.

•   Theodore Roosevelt was paraded upon his return from an African safari in 1910, Charles Lindbergh was hailed following his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, and war generals Eisenhower and Nimitz were celebrated after World War II. Astronaut John Glenn was honored in 1962 and the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were showered with confetti upon their return from the world’s first walk on the moon in 1969. Only one pope has received a New York ticker-tape parade, Pope John Paul II in 1979.

• Although often associated with athletic success, the first athletes weren’t honored in a ticker-tape parade until 1924, with the return of the Olympic team from the games in Paris, where Johnny Weissmuller won three gold medals in swimming and Harold Osborn was a hero in track and field. Since then, several Olympic teams have been heralded, as well as the New York Yankees, the World Series Champions seven times, the New York Mets as Series winners in 1969, and the New York Giants football team. In 1957, Wimbledon Champion Althea Gibson, the first person of color to win in professional tennis, was paraded and remains the only tennis player to be honored as such.

• Athlete Jesse Owens faced extreme racial prejudice when he traveled to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He proved his worth when he took the gold medal in the 100-meters, 200-meters, long jump, and relay team, the first American track and field athlete to win four golds in one Olympics. The racial prejudice continued on the home front when Owens had to ride the freight elevator at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to a reception following a ticker-tape parade honoring his victories. He later said that Franklin Roosevelt “snubbed me. The President didn’t even send me a telegram.” 

•         The person honored with the most New York parades is explorer Richard Byrd, with three. The first was in 1926 after he achieved the first flight over the North Pole. The next year, his transatlantic flight was commemorated, and in 1930, the parade saluted his flight over the South Pole and his first Antarctic expedition.

•  It required 466 sanitation workers to clean up  56.5 tons of paper after the parade following the Yankees World Series victory in 2009. 

• The largest amount of paper thrown was in 1945, when a ticker-tape parade was held to celebrate the Allied victory over Japan. 5,438 tons of paper streamed out over Broadway, 100 times more than the average parade.

• There have been 206 ticker-tape parades since 1886, including the most recent for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team in July, 2015, the first non-New York-based team to receive a parade. The price tag for that parade was about $2 million.  

•  The Tournament of Roses Parade was first held in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, 1890, and included horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers. The parade was followed by foot races, polo matches, and a tug-of-war contest. In 1902, the parade was followed by a football game for the first time, considered the first “Rose Bowl.” However, football games post-parade have only been an annual event since 1916. Today’s Rose Parade route is 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long and includes marching bands, horse units, and flower-covered floats. Famous parade Grand Marshals have included Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bob Hope, Richard Nixon, Shirley Temple, Frank Sinatra, and Sandra Day O’Connor. 

•  Although the Macy’s Parade has been an Thanksgiving morning fixture since 1924, it wasn’t the first. Gimbel’s, a Philadelphia department store, was ahead of them by four years, sponsoring the first parade in 1920. Macy’s, however, became the one to watch, adding the first of their famous colossal helium balloons in 1927, a giant Felix the Cat. By 1933, more than a million people lined the parade route. As popularity grew, more balloons were added – Mickey Mouse in 1934, Superman in 1939, Popeye in 1957, and Hello Kitty in 1976. Other notable characters include Curious George, Scooby-Doo, Mr. Potato Head, and Snoopy and Woodstock.

•  Look out below! On a rainy Thanksgiving in 1957, as Popeye floated above the New York City crowd, his cap filled up with rain, and dumped its contents on parade-goers below. In 1994, the purple Tyrannosaurus Rex Barney veered off course and ran into a lamp post, causing a large tear in his side. Luckily, Barney was the only one injured. Not true three years later, when the Cat in the Hat struck a lamp post, flinging fragments to the street and striking a spectator, resulting in her skull fracture and a month-long coma.

•  In 1919, the community of Lodi, California, held a parade honoring soldiers who had returned from World War I. A California entrepreneur named Roy Allen mixed up a formula for root beer he had purchased from an Arizona pharmacist and sold it on a street corner during the parade for a nickel a mug. The beverage was so popular that before long, Allen had expanded to four sites, which eventually evolved into drive-ins. In 1925, he took on one of his employees Frank Wright as a partner and the pair began offering franchises under the name A&W. The company is the oldest franchise restaurant in the country with more than 1,100 locations in 10 countries. 

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