Learn the Secrets Behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

This year marks the 88th running of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade where an expected 3.5 million parade goers will line the streets of New York City,  another 50 million tuning in.  But have you ever thought about who’s responsible for creating the spectacle of floats, balloons, and costumed characters?

Just 30 minutes outside of New York City sits a plain, brick warehouse in upstate New Jersey that most people wouldn’t notice. But inside skilled artists and craftsmen work in secrecy creating masterpieces that millions will enjoy.

John Piper, the studio director said, “It takes a special person to work here. There’s something bigger and grander than any of us who are involved in it.”

That something is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade - the most celebrated parade in the world.

It takes a gifted team of designers, carpenters, painters, welders, sculptors, seamstresses, and others to build and maintain every balloon, float and costume.

“Working on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you get to work a little magic,” whispered John.

But this is no child’s play . . . some of these pieces tower four stories high.  The work that starts the first of the year, takes creativity, hard work and long hours.

John also explained, “It’s not just the skillset and the talent that you’re looking for. It’s the passion.”

Carpenter John Cheney was busy discussing how he made the mane and tail on this year’s creation, a rocking giraffe.  This will be his 39th parade. 

“The tail is just a rope and you have to be sort of a hair dresser to be a parade worker I suppose,” said John Cheney.

Set designer Brett Garrity remembers catching the bug when he was a boy.

“I saw my first parade in 1993, and immediately I was drawn to it,” said Brett.  “I thought it was the coolest thing.”

So at 15 years old, he wrote then studio director Manfred Bass a letter asking for a job. Until this interview Brett didn’t realize the studio had kept the letter.

Brett explained, “And he told me, ‘when you turn 16 give me a call and we’ll see what we can do.’ So when I was 16 I called them they gave me a summer internship and I’ve been here ever since.”

In addition to the floats and balloons, it takes thousand of volunteers to make the parade a success . . .  and most of them are in costume. Kimberly Montgomery and her team are responsible for dressing all of them.

“This is Macy’s costume shop here in the Macy’s Parade Studio on the third floor, and we have about 5,000 costumes in this room,” said Kimberly.

That includes the most famous suit of all.

“There’s something special about Santa,” smiled Kimberly. “Growing up in Missouri, I remember seeing him coming in and it was the most exciting thing for a six year-old to see Santa, and that was the real Santa, that wasn’t Santa’s helper. And now I know Santa personally, like he sends me birthday cards. It’s really awesome.”

With Santa’s arrival comes the end of the parade. Costumes will be put away and the floats dismantled. Then a late night turkey dinner will proceed  a long winter’s nap; a well- deserved break after another successful kick off to the holiday season.

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