The biggest worry on the ice-cold Thanksgiving morning was if the winds would die down enough for the big balloons to fly. A trademark of the parade and a fan favorite of every kid from 2 to 92, the larger balloons were flown a little lower to the ground just in case the wind gusts created any serious problems. For the first time in its 87 year history, opening the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade were a group of robots created by students from Texas. I know plenty of kids wishing to spend an hour with the robot with the basketballs to see who has a better corner jump shot. Once the giant float with the pilgrims riding on top a huge turkey passed by, everyone knew the parade was under way. The largest collegiate marching band in the country, James Madison University Marching Band from Harrisonburg, Virginia kicked things off. The first of the many giant balloons made its appearance with newcomer Woodstock riding on top of a flying Snoopy giving him directions so they don’t bump into any tall buildings. Right on Snoopy’s tail was the tall and majestic Sonic balloon. The Miss Kitty balloon flew with minor turbulence but did manage to navigate her way safely. A tropical group full of parrots and giraffes lead the way for the monkey float with Julius. Fitness guru, Richard Simmons, was a hit for the older crowd that remembered his light-hearted antics from the 80s and 90s. He hasn’t changed one bit. The Union HS Marching Band from Tulsa, OK were a big hit among the marching bands. A more serious looking band followed them as the US Marine Corp Band kicked it up a notch.
A newcomer and quite appropriate giant balloon flew by with kids singing the cartoon favorite’s theme song. Spongebob Squarepants flew on by while holding on to his red Santa hat in case it flew off with a wind gust. Following the crowd favorite was a fun and energetic marching band from Tarpon Springs. They were amazing and had to march a little faster as one of the biggest giant balloons was gaining on them. The huge black dragon from the blockbuster hit “How To Train Your Dragon” made its first appearance at this parade. Quite impressive. A fun-dressed marching band from Ooltewah Tennessee led the way for a new balloon representing the Wizard of Oz movie. The coolest part of that group was a basket carrying the Grand Wizard of Oz underneath the giant balloon…much like the scene in the film. Crowd favorite Spiderman made his way down the parade route on 6th Ave, however his left arm was a little limp as it got punctured by a tree at the start of the parade by Central Park West.
The big Apple float carried some sports legends including former NFL players Amani Toomer, Hines Ward, Bart Oates, and Joe Namath who personally guaranteed everyone would have fun at the parade. There are hundreds of clowns at this parade and one of the better ones are the cops and robbers clowns. They always get the crowd worked up with their antics. The best of the best marching bands from UMass blew the crowd away with their tight march and loud music. Fireman clowns and cute dalmatians arrived just ahead of the fireman giant balloon. Younger kids really cheered on the Despicable Me float with the movie characters working the crowd. Plenty of cupcake and cookie clowns walked on by just ahead of the huge Doughboy balloon. The Toro Marching Band from Arizona was impressive but had to march faster because new entry balloon Finn and Jake were a bit out of control but no need to fear. Right behind them was the Buzz Lightyear giant balloon to save the day from any danger. The parade was winding down as there were many elves looking to help any one they could. Giant balloon Virginia carrying a letter with a wish list for Santa let everyone know the big moment was soon at hand. But first another character with long white hair had to make his appearance. None other than Papa Smurf floated on by to the delight of the crowd. That high energy worked its way into the last of the marching bands in the Great American Band. Then the moment everyone was waiting for arrived. The huge float with reindeer on top with Santa and Mrs. Claus waving to crowd. Looking at the wonder in the eyes of the children around me was heartwarming and brings out the kid in everyone.
This parade closes out what was an amazing parade year. From the start of the year with the Chinese Lunar Year to St. Patrick’s to the Mermaid to the Puerto Rican to Labor Day to Halloween to Veterans Day it was one of the best parade years I have witnessed. Thanks to the NYPD for keeping the millions of people watching the parades safe. Thanks to the parade organizers and marchers for making this a memorable year for so many people. And thanks to you the reader for keeping this labor of love going strong. See you next year.