Happy Macy*s Thanksgiving (2007)
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade volunteer?
Here’s Hoboken411 reader Bernie’s recap: “A day in the life of a Macy’s Balloon Handler”
It’s all for the Kids???
4:30AM, the alarm goes off, the stomach cramps and nausea quickly sets in. It’s way too early for getting up. What’s going on? It’s that time of the year again; Thanksgiving Day, where normal folks sleep in. My mind starts racing, “Why am I doing that? Who the heck said it’s all for the Kids?”
A quick check for the weather; will it be cold or raining? The forecast promises temperatures in the 50s and no wind, no rain. Nice, at least I don’t have to worry about dressing up in dozens of layers to fend of the cold. A quick shower, but no time for coffee… Then a fog horn roars through the night, it’s 5:15 AM and my ride announces his presence. Great, now the neighbors are awake as well! Why does he have to blow that stupid fog horn every year when he picks me up? We go off to collect the rest of the crew. Surprisingly, nobody overslept this year, everybody is psyched.
Here we go again, it’s all for the Kids!!!
6AM. For all participants, the parade starts at the New Yorker Hotel on 8th Ave between 34th and 35th street. Clowns & Co. form up a line around the left of the hotel, Balloon Handlers around the right. We quickly find the room which holds the jump suits for the Shrek crew.
I must admit, I’m a little disappointed as I expected the suits to be green, not beige. I guess beige assembles the peasant clothes Shrek wears in the movies. A nice surprise is, that the suits are all XL this year, so no worries about zippers not closing over the battle of the bulge. On the way out of the hotel we go through the clowns dressing hall: Hundreds of clowns putting on makeup. Scary, really scary!!!
Macy’s operates a continuous bus line from the New Yorker Hotel up to the Museum of Natural History with buses leaving every couple of minutes, which gets us and the other thousands of participants efficiently up to the start of the parade. Once at the Museum of Natural History, it’s finally time for a delicious coffee from a corner deli. All the balloons are already inflated and lined up to the left and right of the Museum. The balloons are weighted down with sandbags and held by nets.
Read the rest of what it’s like to handle a Macy’s balloon after the break!
We stroll around and enjoy a beautiful sunrise with the sun coming up behind Central Park. The Animal Planet Float this year has Bindi Irwin in it. Three years ago we saw her dad Steve standing in the same place…
We also look for Dolly Parton and her balloons but to no avail; she must have already flown off with them. Now it’s time to get back to Shrek and secure a good spot underneath it. From the balloon Pilots and Captains we find out the strategy of how handlers are assigned under the balloon and we manage to secure the left front of the balloon. Awesome, it’s a prime position for a great shot in the New York Post the next day.
The sand bags come off, the net pulls back and Houston, we have a lift off!
3, 2, 1, let’s have a Parade!
9AM, the announcer counts down the start of the parade over the PA: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let’s have a Parade!
Shrek is the second balloon on 81st street, so almost smack in the middle of the parade. After half of the floats go by, we finally get our turn and move out to the parade route. Due to the perfect weather, the grandstands are packed, and thousands of kids and visitors line up along the street and in the windows of the apartments facing the parade. We can’t fly the balloon very high until Columbus Circle, because of all the trees along the park. Then a quick turn around Columbus Circle while smiling at the CNN cameras and we get onto Broadway.
There’s nothing in our way now and we let Shrek go higher and higher. I’ve never seen so many cameras in the crowds as this year, even half of the cops along the route take pictures. The noise gets louder and louder as we approach Times Square. Time Square is definitely the highlight of the Parade. A quick S turn before the Army and Police Recruiting Station and we leave Time Square behind us.
Now all is more quiet and slower as we approach Herald Square, where NBC covers the parade. The blocks before Herald Square are designated as a quiet zone so nobody interferes with the broadcast. The marching bands stop playing and there’s much less chanting.
We see Rudy Giuliani and he starts shaking hands with some of our balloon handlers. Then, the command is given to move into Herald Square, right into the bright spot lights of the TV cameras. The Today Show hosts Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer, and Al Roker wave at us before we turn right onto 34th street where we pass Macy’s grand stands. The parade ends by turning into 7th Avenue, also called the Balloon Graveyard Row, where all the balloons get deflated. We pull down the balloon until we can reach the zippers which once opened let all the Helium vanish into the atmosphere (Of course not before taking a deep breath of Helium, hehehe).
Let’s do it again next year, for the kids!
11:30AM After Shrek gasps his last breath of Helium into the air, we walk back to the New Yorker hotel, but not before stopping by an Irish Pub for a couple of deliciously cold beers. Finally exhausted and tired we drive back, while talking about the day’s events.
We all agree: Let’s do it again next year. It’s all for the kids!
Here again, we have a somewhat loyal Hoboken411 reader providing their exclusive 2007 Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade photos. This is a long-time Hoboken resident and a veteran to the Macy’s parade crew.
Give huge props to all of them for waking up at 5am for all of us to see these fabulous balloons by the time we woke up!
See a few more inside photos after the jump