Happy Thanksgiving! With a splash of confetti!
Most every trip has a highlight moment, and today was ours. It was finally time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and a chance to see Miles and the Union High School Band, the Renegade Regiment, march in it.
Staying in Secaucus NJ presents us a set of challenges when getting into NYC. Today it was the fact the mass transit was on a holiday schedule. The first train did not leave Secaucus for Penn Station until 6:21. We thought that was too late, so we made arrangements to be picked up by a taxi at 5:00am. Scott joined Stephanie, Mallory, Marissa and myself. The rest of the group would arrive later, including Erin’s boss and her daughter. In all, we had 13 people lined up.
Throughout our first few days in NYC, we made it a habit of asking people what time a person needed to show up to get on the front row of the parade route. Nobody we talked to had any idea! We heard 7:00, 6:30, maybe 6:00. That sounded farfetched to us, and since we came all the way to NYC for this event, we decided to take no chances.
The taxi driver let us off at Columbus Circle, the southwest corner of Central Park, at 59th Street. There were already scores of people on the front row when we arrived, but still plenty of spots to be had. We walked up to nearly 64th Street before we found an open area large enough to accommodate our 13 folding chairs.
We were in our spot by 5:30am. Only 3 ½ hours to wait until the parade starts!
The rest of our travel party successfully got on the 6:21am train to Penn Station. They did have a delay when the subway they were going to ride to Columbus Circle changed tracks due to the holiday schedule. They arrived at our spot around 8:00 and by then it was elbow to elbow on the sidewalk except for a very thin lane down the middle for people to walk up and down.
There was an astounding number of NYPD police officers on duty and working the parade. They were lined up every 30 to 40 feet along both sides of the parade route. You would also see K-9 units walking down the street, as well as plenty of supervisors. They certainly looked like they knew what they were doing , but they also looked like they were having a good time. Lots of smiles and laughs from the men in blue.
There was some concern all week that it would be too windy for the balloons to fly in the parade. But as the week went along, the conditions improved and we did get to see them. It really would not have felt like the Macy’s parade without them! The only negative was that since there still was some wind, they did not fly very high. We can live with that.
I had to include the photo of Richard Simmons because our band crossed paths with him this morning. One of Miles’ friends in the band has some awesome, extreme hair. It is awesome in the way that it stands straight up about 12 inches. As Richard Simmons was passing the band this morning before the parade started, he spotted Rhema and said, “I LOVE YOUR HAIR!”. If you are in high school and Richard Simmons tells you he loves your hair, you have already won at life.
At around 9:50, here came the Renegade Regiment band. When you have anticipated something for so long, it is easy to get nervous and that’s what we were. Stephanie’s heart was beating fast, and Mallory was so excited, she thought she was recording the band as it went by, but it turned out she was only pointing her camera at them!
The band was playing “Oklahoma” as they marched past us, and they sounded great. We did our part to sound just as good as the band.
Thirteen people can make a lot of noise!
Above, from left to right: KK, Stephanie, Marissa, Mallory, Judy, Joe, Jennifer, Elyse, Erin, Grandma Mary, and Scott. My Mom is just out of the shot to the left, and I am behind the man in the Macy’s sweatshirt. A pretty epic picture!
Just like that it was over! It was the most exciting 90 seconds of the year! It was just like being a kid and looking forward to Christmas morning for months, and in a flash the presents are open and it’s over. Our group was all smiles, though. What a great experience, and the parade was only halfway over.
In the picture above, you can see a person dressed in a star costume holding a bag of confetti. This was very common. People would come up to you throughout the parade and say, “Happy Thanksgiving!” and throw confetti on you. By the time the parade was through, we had this confetti all over our clothes, in our hair, and all over our blankets. When we unloaded our blankets at the hotel at the end of the day, it looked like the parade went right through our room.
The group of spectators in our area made the event very interactive. Much moreso than any parade I have ever been to. When a balloon would go by, there would be a spontaneous chant of “WAVE THE ARM. WAVE THE ARM.” Until the balloon operators would make the balloon’s arm wave. If the arm didn’t get waved, they would launch right into “KICK THE FOOT. KICK THE FOOT.”
One time a group of people wearing baby alphabet blocks came by, and the chant was “SPELL A WORD. SPELL A WORD.” They could obviously hear us, because they arranged themselves in a circle and were trying to figure out what word they could spell. They had no idea even what letter they were wearing. Ultimately, they did spell out “GIVE!” to a round of raucous applause.
There were an estimated 3.5 million people who showed up to watch the parade this morning. Wow!
The Santa Clause float always brings up the rear of the parade. Our tour guide from Tuesday told us that the story goes Santa goes straight from the parade directly to the top floor of Macy’s where he can talk to all the boys and girls. The reality is Santa has already been at Macy’s for weeks, where incidentally you can select any of the various ethnically diverse Santa Clauses they offer.
Even though the Santa is supposed to be the final float, there was one final float that came up the street shortly afterward to catch up. It was a strange scene. I wonder if they eventually caught up with, and passed, Santa Clause?
Moments after the parade was over, everybody along our road simply disappeared. A few moments after that, the street sweepers were cleaning up and the barricades were coming down. We were extremely impressed with how quickly everything was restored to order.
We got on the subway at Lincoln Center and rode to Penn Station. As you would imagine, it was very crowded conditions. It was getting close to Noon at this point and everybody was starving. Stephanie , I and the girls decided to grab a bagel and the rest of the party had some very expensive hamburgers at the T.G.I. Friday’s. In addition, I got my very first Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, which was on my todo list for this trip.
Mallory woke up not feeling well, and we weren’t sure if she would be able to ride with us at 5am. But she was a trooper. When we were eating lunch in Penn Station, Mallory fell asleep in her chair and her phone even fell out of her hands onto the floor. That is how you know a teenager is tired!
After all of us made it to the hotel, we had just a few hours of rest before it was time for the evening entertainment – a Harbor Dinner Cruise around NYC. This event was organized by the band, and we had nearly 600 people attend between students, faculty and family.
The 9 charter buses had a few extra seats, which we were graciously allowed to ride on. All of us were exhausted from our day, and not needing to worry about transportation was a huge relief. We were very appreciative.
We met up with Miles as we were getting on the bus at the host hotel. It was the first time we had seen him since we got to New York!
It was a great evening of celebration for everyone who had worked so hard for the last 18 months to make this event happen.
Couldn’t be more proud of Miles and the rest of the Renegade Regiment. I am also delighted that so many of our family was able to come with us to experience this day.
Today, we won New York!