I’ve been lucky to be a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, not only once, but twice. This year, as the holidays rolled in, the Macy’s Studio kicked off the start of yet another epic parade.
It takes a small army of roughly 9000 people to run the parade each year – most are volunteers. It is a daunting task that Macy’s has come to perfect after 89 years.
This year, I had the pleasure to be assigned to the Hallmark Channel float, with Mariah Carey as the Talent. I was excited to see her up close and listen to her music through the parade route. All I want for Christmas is one of my top 5 favorite Christmas songs and I had the opportunity to stand 20 feet below her as she belted out the high notes for all the NBC viewers. Even with how epic that moment was, that wasn’t the best part of the parade.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is amazing to be a part of this iconic tradition. But it’s not all fun and games. Sure it’s exciting. Sure, you will meet some great people and possibly some exceptionally talented artist. Sure, you will have a blast while you are doing it. But before you go running off saying, ‘I have to be in next year’s parade,’ remember – it’s also hard work.
I live in Queens and for the past 2 years I have been a float escort. This means I am assigned to a float and given a costume the morning of the parade. In order to be dressed in time, I must wake up at 5 AM, pray that the trains aren’t slow, be to the hotel between 6 – 6:30 AM. Get dressed in the costume (hoping it’s one of the comfortable ones) jump on a bus they provide to take you to the start of the parade route. You will then be directed to your float where you will stand around for 1 hour, if you’re lucky and stationed at the beginning of the parade, up to 3 hours, if you are at the end of the parade.
Since I was on a headliner float this year, that means our float was 2nd to last – Santa is always the last float. My friend Jon, who was also stationed on that float, received a text from my friend Mel (aka, his wife) saying she was already done with the parade and in pajamas snuggled up comfortably on the couch at home. She then joked about us still not yet starting the parade. It was true. It was still another 30 or so minutes before we started the parade. We were not done with the parade, undressed from the costumes, and feed until around 1 PM. That means I was up and running for about 8 hours by the end of it.
Parts can be tough. You have to be up early. You are walking for 2.5 miles in the parade at a brisk pace (don’t let them fool you into thinking it’s a slow pace – it’s not even New York City slow). You are standing around for hours on end, waiting for the parade to start. You can’t sit down while you wait. You can’t drink or eat too much as once you are in costume, there is not only nowhere for you to go to the bathroom, but there is also no way you are getting out of that costume to use said bathroom.
It’s not for the light hearted.
I’m in pretty good health. I walk a lot. I can run or sprint when I need to. I can manage without water or food for hours. Yet by the end of the parade I’m exhausted. I want to eat my cheese danish and chug my water slumped over a couch for the next few hours. I don’t want to move.
Even with all this, it is an amazing experience and will give you a whole new appreciation for parades and the people that manage them. You will have the opportunity to be a part of a national tradition and you just may be spotted on camera in the process. No guarantees on this one. From the 2 years I have been in the parade, you can only spot my elbow and possibly my shoulder on TV.
If you have the opportunity to participate and you are in fairly good health, I say go. Enjoy the parade and all the excitement that comes about the parade. Especially when you get those special moments that become your favorite moments of the parade. What was mine this year you ask? Why, it was when you heard what sounds like teenage girl screaming from the crowd about how much she loves Mariah, only to look over and discover the teenage girl is actually a man going goo-goo and his wife standing next to him has a face of pure shock that says ‘what the f***’?!?! Best. Show. Ever.
Thanks for reading,