Tom Turkey is the oldest, most recurring, and the most famous float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Parade's unofficial mascot. Tom is an animatronic Thanksgiving turkey who has occasionally has two people dressed as pilgrims riding on top of him and is also surrounded by actors dressed as pilgrims. He is controlled by a series of cables, levers, and pulleys. Tom generally leads the parade as the first float, bookending the spectacle together with Santa Claus, whose arrival into Herald Square traditionally ends the event.
History with the Macy's Parade
Tom Turkey v.1
Tom Turkey was introduced to the Parade in 1973, under the name "Toy Turkey". This version of the float had much lighter and muted colors than the following versions, with the float base being decorated with over-sized pumpkins and hay bales. Occasionally, this version of the float would carry a sign on the front which read "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade", a feature which would once again be used in the 2018 version of the float. After 20 consecutive appearances, this version of the float was retired after the 1992 Parade.
Tom Turkey v.2
After the 1992 edition of the Parade, Tom was sent back to the Macy's Parade Studio and was given a refreshed paint job, now baring more autumn-like colors. Additionally, the fringe and skirt which surrounded the base of the float were also given a re-design. Similar to the last version of Tom, this redesign became a Parade staple, and arguably more popular. Because of his popularity and overall excellent, yet simple design, he made continuous appearances until the 91st Annual Parade in 2017, with the exception of the 2003 Parade, where he took a "Thanksgiving off". A new novelty balloon known as Gorgeous Gobbler replaced him that year.
Tom Turkey v.3
After the 2017 Parade, Tom was once again sent back to the Parade Studio. This time, the Studio team has fresh ideas for Tom's redesign. The previous float's base was completely discarded, in favor of a new three-tiered float, alongside golden railings. Additionally, Tom was given another paint job, this time, baring more gold, yellow, orange and brown. This float is notable for being the first-ever and only self-propelled float in the Parade's history. This technique is done with the help of a RAM Truck, which is able to see through a screen that reads "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" (2018) or "Macy's Parade" (2019), as a callback to the first version of the float. Rather than having simple Pilgrim-costumed escorts, it is now escorted by Macy's Starlets and Cheerleaders, in addition to Autumn Leaves.
In addition to being a float, Tom Turkey was also given a Balloonicle version for the Macy's Holiday Parade, which appeared in 2015 and 2016, leading the parade, just like his float counterpart. After the Holiday Parade re-branded In 2017, the balloonicle was later re-purposed and has since been used as a cold-air decoration on top of Macy's 34th Street marquee for the NBC telecast.
Appearances in popular culture
- In the MAD episode "The Bourne Leg-A-Turkey", during the ending scene, when the Talking Turkey was driving his motorcycle upon freedom, he notices a road closure for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade taking place, with Tom Turkey making a cameo in the scene. Coincidentally, in this segment, Tom Turkey was seen as a self-propelled float bearing the Parade's logo on it, yet this feature would later be used for the real float in 2018.
Below, you will find a list of every performer/celebrity that has performed/appeared on the float, alongside the respective songs which they sang during the NBC Telecast.
Tom Turkey v.1
- 1973 - George Jones & Tammy Wynette, performed "We're Gonna Hold On"
- 1974 - Howard Keel
- 1975 - Dolly Parton, performed "The Seeker"
- 1976 - The Cast of the New Howdy Doody Show
- 1977 - Mel Tillis
- 1978 - The Oakridge Boys, performed "You're the One (in a Million)"
- 1979 - Mickey Rooney, performed "Jingle Bell Rock"
- 1980 - Sister Sledge, performed "We Are Family"
- 1981 - Donny Osmond, performed "Give My Regards To Broadway"
- 1982 - Keith Carradine
- 1983 - Charley Pride, performed "Down in Louisiana"
- 1984 - Dionne Warwick
- 1985 - Janie Fricke, performed "If the Fall Don't Get You"
- 1986 - Crystal Gayle, performed "Walking In A Winter Wonderland"
- 1987 - Rita Coolidge, performed "Higher and Higher"
- 1988 - Tanya Trucker, performed "Highway Robbery"
- 1989 - Clint Black, performed "Straight from the Factory"
- 1990 - Garth and Sandy Brooks, performed "Two Of A Kind"
- 1991 - Charlie Daniels, performed "Little Folks"
- 1992 - Mac Davis, performed "Never Met A Man I Didn't Like"
Tom Turkey v.2
- 1994 - Sheri Lewis, Lambchop & Charlie Horse, performed "Don't Just Sit There"
- 1995 - Shania Twain, performed "Any Man Of Mine"
- 1996 - Bo Diddley, performed "Bo Diddley Is Crazy"
- 1997 - Sheri Lewis & Charlie Horse, performed "I Love The Macy's Parade"
- 1998 - Martina McBride, performed "Happy Girl"
- 1999 - Susan Lucci
- 2000 - The Corrs, performed "Breathless"
- 2001 - Willard Scott
- 2004 - Julie Roberts, performed "You Ain't Down Home"
- 2010 - Eric Hutchinson, performed "Best Days" & Alton Brown
- 2011 - Avril Lavinge, performed "Wish You Were Here"
- 2012 - Geoffrey Zakarian & Robin Hall
- 2013 - Sandra Lee
- 2014 - Sandra Lee
- 2015 - Sandra Lee
- 2016 - Sandra Lee
- 2017 - Padma Lakshmi & Tom Colicchio from Bravo's Top Chef