80 years and still floating

Patti VanPragg

It’s finally here. The kids gallop down the stairs to the living room in an absolute frenzy because the day has finally arrived, and, at last, the excruciating wait is over. Their eyes light up as they reach their destination and see it. What caused such a commotion? While you might instinctively think that this was Christmas morning and that the rush was to the Christmas tree, in fact, it was the prelude to this subsequent holiday – Thanksgiving and the celebration of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Like these children, millions of Americans across the country tune in to watch this remarkable time-old tradition that Americans have come to hold near and dear to their hearts.

New York City has been home to this spectacular event since 1924. Since then, it has been an annual event, with the exception of 1942-1944 when Macy’s donated the balloons to the war effort since rubber was such a valuable resource. Considering the fact that this year is its 80th anniversary, the 2006 parade will certainly not disappoint the nation’s high expectations. Macy’s and its partners, GMC, REMO and Timberland promise tons of surprises as the parade is celebrated as the “longest running show on Broadway.” The sheer longevity and tremendous success of the parade is surely due to the fact that it has something for everyone. From the children that are just being introduced to the tradition, to the tourists who came to the Big Apple specifically for this occasion, to the lifelong devotees that wouldn’t miss it for the world, there is a universal spirit of holiday cheer that grabs hold of every spectator. Whether you are standing on Broadway face-to-face with the performers or sitting in the comfort of your home possibly thousands of miles away from Columbus Circle, prepare to be amazed.

When the parade is about to commence at 77th Street and Central Park West, one cannot help getting jittery with excitement. Classic floats like Tom Turkey, Doodlebug and Mother Goose evoke nostalgia as they proceed to Columbus Circle.

Here, appearances by Ronald McDonald and Friends, Julie Andrews, the cast and Muppets of Seasame Street and Gloria Estefan and performances by the Harlem Globetrotters, NYC Ballet, Firecrackers Jump Roping Team and many more will leave you in awe of their talent and enthusiasm.

The parade then turns onto Broadway, and the giant balloons, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Big Bird, Super Grover and Flying Ace Snoopy, soar overhead through Times Square.

Finally, it turns west onto 34th Street, and the crowd is captivated by the absolute precision and harmony heard from the music performed by the New York Police Department Marching Band and high school and college marching bands from across the nation. In addition, the parade will debut the Macy’s Great American Marching Band, a collection of select students from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that was put together specifically to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the parade.

The parade comes to a close as it approaches 7th Avenue, and it seems that yet another Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will come to successful conclusion, but not before the last member of the infamous parade approaches the final stop on the parade route … it’s Santa Claus! He is a reminder that while Thanksgiving is a great American tradition that incorporates our gratitude for all the blessings in our lives, it also marks the official beginning of the Christmas season. And Macy’s certainly wants the United States to remember that it is time to start its shopping for the holidays.

On a less cynical note, seeing Santa Claus at the end of the parade lets kids across the nation remember that the magic of Christmas starts today. They can start dreaming about the next time they will be filled with fervor while running into their living rooms and, instead of seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television, they will see their Christmas trees and all the presents that Santa has left for them because they have been so good.

So on Nov. 23, please remember all that you have to be thankful for in your life, allow yourself to get in the spirit of this American celebration and absolutely make sure that you tune in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade grace the streets of New York City. About 4,000 volunteers will make this 2.5-mile march an overwhelming success, as more than 2.5 million people will line these New York City streets and 44 million more will watch as the parade airs on NBC from 9 a.m. to noon. Don’t miss it because this parade is just as much a part of the Thanksgiving Day tradition as your turkey dinner with all the trimmings.