As the weather cools down, the air gets more crisp, and the Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s return, the holidays are starting to reenter my radar. And so, I look back to walking in the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2016.
As a Macy’s employee, I was invited to take part in the parade that was watched by 22+ million people.
Before the day, here are the things I had to come to terms with:
- I would not be having a relaxing Thanksgiving morning, sleeping in until 11 am.
- I would not go out the night before to participate in “Blackout Wednesday.”
- I would need to be in Manhattan on Thanksgiving vs. a quiet suburban day.
- It might be cold. And rainy. Deal with it.
Macy’s allows you, as an employee, to bring one guest to walk with. In fact, it’s a huge application process getting yourself and your guest onboarded and approved. Think: applying for a job.
In August, my friends at work were signing up to be clowns (the alleged only openings left in the parade for new employees). Trying to fulfill my dream of being a float escort, I marched right up to the Parade Office (yes, Macy’s dedicates an entire team to work for the parade, year-round), and got in touch with whoever was in charge.
“Yeah, I’m sure we can squeeze you in to be with a float, since you took the time to come up here. Send in your application, and I’ll approve.”
Wa-la! I was now a float escort. What float would I get? Santa’s Sleigh (one can dream)?
Here’s how my day went:
I woke up at 4 a.m. on Long Island to drive to Manhattan. We had to get there by 6. We reported at a hotel in Midtown, where we waited outside on a line to get checked in. We flashed our IDs, and were directed to our changing room.
In the changing room, we were amongst several human Christmas trees and clowns already. Since our float was “North Dakota,” we were given costumes that would portray us as rangers.
We were then directed to a bus to take us to our starting point on the Upper West Side. I passed all of the inflated floats lying on the street, ready to take air.
Once in the exclusive, gated float area, we were able to freely walk as we pleased to take a glance at all of the floats.
We then had to practice our “dance” that we would be doing once we reached Herald Square for all of the nation to see live on TV. A few waves over the shoulder, a few bops, and we were good.
Our float guest arrived: Ben Rector. Think the amazing tune Brand New. You’ve probably heard it in commercials if not on Spotify.
We marched from the Upper West Side all the way to 34th Street. I was a celebrity – or at least, felt like someone. It was surreal having millions of people on the sidelines cheering at you as you waved and screamed. Spectators from all over the country were there to watch; TV cameras and production crews lined the streets to capture you and your float.
When we reached Herald Square in front of the store (where all the dancing and singing actually takes place), it was now our time to be on live TV. Was I nervous? No. Could not wait to be on TV. I live for this.
The song began, Ben was up there lip-syncing (requirement, though), and we started our ridiculous, uncoordinated dance. Cameras were on me from every angle. I was a 15 second CELEBRITY.
Once it ended, the texts and responses starting coming in.
“I SAW YOU”
Because, well, I actually did make it on TV. Probably more than anyone in my group! I showed off my dance moves, yelled, and showcased my ridiculous costume.
The energy of the parade was amazing. The crowd was incredible, the production was seamless, and it was FUN, FUN, FUN. So much fun, in fact, that I’m returning this year in 2017 to be on a TBD float! (Good thing I registered before quitting my job). Also, word has it that if you do the parade two years in a row, you’re grandfathered in and are able to participate for the rest of your life. #werkperks
Catch me on NBC for Macy’s 91st Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday November 24th. See you there!
-mike, the ranger