The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Touted as the "unofficial" start of the holiday season, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is watched by millions every year on Thanksgiving Day. The parade itself began in 1924 at Bamberger's in Newark, New Jersey and then transferred to Macy's in Manhattan. The employees, most of whom were new immigrants to the US, wanted to show their love for their new country.
The parade continued to grow through the '30's where the use of balloons first began. The parade was suspended during WWII to use the rubber for the war effort and resumed in 1945.
In 1947, the parade was the backdrop for a Christmas favorite - Miracle on 34th Street. The movie is a perennial favorite and starred Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwen and a young Natalie Wood.
The parade first began its' network coverage on CBS in 1948. NBC became the official broadcaster in 1955. At first, the broadcasts were only one hour long. In 1961, it expanded to two hours and, by 1969, all three hours were broadcast. Lorne Greene hosted the show with Betty White from '63-71. Ed McMahon took over with various co-hosts and from '87-'97 Bryant Gumble and the great Willard Scott hosted the parade along with various co hosts that included McMahon and Katie Couric. Al Roker joined in 1995 and since 1998 Matt Lauer took over duties after the depature of Willard Scott.
Since 2006, Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Al Roker have been the hosting team for NBC. I have uploaded the opening for the 1981 Macy's Parade and it features Ed McMahon as host.