Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and watching the Macy’s parade is the quintessential holiday tradition. (A close second is watching any Charlie Brown holiday special, of course.) This year, instead of watching the parade on TV (or listening to it in the background as I prepare dinner), I went to New York to work behind-the-scenes dressing participants for the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This Thanksgiving was the windiest on record in Manhattan. For at least a week, meteorologists discussed whether or not the balloons would be grounded this year due to the heavy winds. Luckily, all 60 balloons were flown. It wasn’t an easy task, but the balloon holders really held it down. Lucky for me and the rest of the Crew, we were warm (and my hair was safe from the winds), as we worked from Macy’s historic Herald Square location.
A total of 50 Costumers were hired this year. Most of the men and women I met worked in fashion or in theater. I was the only Costumer from Atlanta and one of few whose work is based mostly in film and TV. A few weeks before in training sessions, we were split into five teams of dressers – kids, teens, adults, balloon holders and clowns. I was a part of the team responsible for kids and teens. We were also given our 4:45 a.m. call time. I admit. I didn’t sleep the night before. I couldn’t risk missing my alarm and then missing my call time.
In total, there were 4,000 participants in costume on 26 floats. That’s not counting the 1,200 band members, cheerleaders and dancers. The key was organization…and the Costume Crew was super organized. Every costume was hanging with a picture of the full costume, all pieces were labeled and organized in hanging bags. Even the parents and kids kept saying things were so organized. I really enjoyed hearing the stories of families that travel from all over the country to participate. One family that I helped dress has been traveling from New Hampshire to participate in the parade for the last seven years. They are friends of Macy’s CEO. Another lady works in Macy’s ad sales department. Her four girls were very particular about their look and anyone would understand why. The parade is the most watched televised programming on Thanksgiving Day, the year on NBC.
It is a magical experience for everyone involved. I’m looking forward to working the parade again next year.