BEHIND THE FLOATS
What you didn’t know about this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
November 26, 2013
It all started in 1924 with a small group of energetic Macy’s employees and live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Now, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a world-renowned holiday event, featuring huge, high-flying balloons and floats, performances by some of today’s most popular artists and over 8,000 volunteers.
Whether you brave the cold to attend the parade in person or catch it on TV while whipping up mashed potatoes and stuffing, you probably recognize that hours of creativity and planning go into it. Did you know that all 26 of the Macy’s Parade Studio staff work on any given float, or that each float must be dismantled pre-parade to fit through a toll booth?
John Piper, Vice President of Macy’s Parade Studio, is gearing up for his 33rd parade this Thanksgiving. The event will feature 30 custom-made and custom-designed floats, which means everyone on staff has had to wear multiple hats to get everything ready.
“Carpenters are also welders and the welders are also sculptors and the painters are sculptors or illustrators and the designers work on the production as well,” he said. “Everyone collaborates together.”
One of the biggest challenges for the Studio staff is ensuring the floats are built to be dismantled for their trip through the Lincoln Tunnel the night before the parade.
“Even though they are three bus lanes wide and three or three and half stories tall, they all have to be engineered so that they’re no more than twelve and a half feet tall, eight and half feet wide in their dismantled aspect,” Piper said.
Once the floats make it through the tunnel, the Studio staff and a team of volunteers work through the night reassembling all the floats to full size so they are ready for their debut on Thanksgiving morning.
In the video above, Piper talks specifically about the making of Royal Caribbean’s “A World at Sea” float, which is debuting this year. Crafted with 50 gallons of paint, three pallet loads of plywood, thirty-six inverted casters and more, the float features a giant turntable with three scenes from the cruise line’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas: the zip-line, rock wall and FlowRider surf simulator.
Riding on “A World at Sea” and singing Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York during the parade will be Quantum’s godmother, Kristin Chenoweth. According to Piper, Chenoweth already provided some help with the float – and kept his team organized in the process.
“She came to the studio and was here directing my team and making sure everything was shipshape and just the way she wanted it to be for this brand new float,” he said. “And the end of the day, I was like ‘Do you really have to go? We got an awful lot done today with you kind of cracking the whip…’”
To see Chenoweth and the Studio staff’s float handiwork WOW the crowd, tune into watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC-TV on Thursday, November 28, from 9 a.m. to noon, or head to Manhattan’s 6th Avenue for some in-person viewing. You’ll be the most float-savvy person there
via Behind the Floats.