Macy's Thanksgiving Parade magic comes with a big price tag. Here's how costs add up

2019 procession includes 16 giant character balloons and more than 1,000 clowns.

Every year as the end of November draws near, New York City prepares for its annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a holiday staple since 1924.

For 2.5 miles and roughly three hours, colorful balloons, floats and performers dazzle crowds as they march through Manhattan, beginning at 77th Street and Central Park West and meandering through the city before ending at Macy’s landmark store in Herald Square.

According to The Smart Shopper's 2016 report, the average total cost to hold the parade itself is $10.4 million to $12.3 million, with costumes alone coming to about $2 million and property taxes amounting to another $138,573.

Logistics and coordination of the event run from $1.5 million to $3.4 million, covering workers, parade supplies and helium for the balloons. Despite the fact that it’s held only once a year, the procession boasts a full-time staff of 26 employees and another 10 to 15 part-time workers, with $1.3 million of the parade’s logistics funds set aside for their salaries.


Then, of course, there are the iconic balloon floats. These behemoths can soar up to five to six stories in the air and require anywhere from 50 to 90 handlers, who are all paid, to control them.

Each float needs 300,000 to 700,000 cubic feet of helium in order to fly; filling them all costs a minimum of $510,000, according to The Smart Shopper.

The 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, in 2013, attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. 

While characters like Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants are familiar faces in the procession, adding a new one costs quite a bit more. The price to sponsor a returning balloon is $90,000, but participants shell out $190,000 to bring in a new one.

The price for a new float includes construction, which can take four to nine months, with average expenses ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 per float, The Smart Shopper reported.


Although helium prices and parade staffer salaries cost a pretty penny, the real money goes to security.

No major event can be held in post-9/11 New York City without a massive police presence. Out of all of the city's yearly events, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the New York City Marathon and the NYC Village Halloween Parade, the Thanksgiving tradition is the police department's biggest in terms of security, according to the New York Times.

Officials have been tight-lipped about the cost, but with thousands of police officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, and rooftop snipers, it isn't cheap.

In fact, the cost of the department's parade-related work was high enough that in 2010, the city required that the parade be kept under five hours and its route reduced by 25 percent, which slashed the overall price for police presence by $3.1 million, according to the New York Times report.

The procession that year cost the city $192,000 in police overtime alone, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office. Five years later, former Police Commissioner William Bratton said more than 2,500 officers were deployed along the parade route, breaking the department's record for the largest number of officers ever assigned, NBC News reported.

This year’s 93rd Macy’s Day Parade will take place on Nov. 28. Starting at 9 a.m., it will feature 16 giant character balloons, 40 novelty balloons and other inflatables, 26 floats, 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers, 1,000 clowns and 11 marching bands, according to Macy’s website.