Inside look at the Macy’s Parade…….Not Too Unlike……Well, US!

macys-paradeWell tomorrow is Thanksgiving……one of my favorite holidays.  Clearly one of the most famous parades in the world will begin their march from uptown to downtown delighting the faces of millions of children and even a few adults at the same time.

For years I had the honor and the privilege to having but one job in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…….to get those huge balloons from start to finish.  Leaving my house at 3:30 am and driving to New York where there was an incredible electricity of excitement behind the scenes.  Thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of man hours to make a complexity of activity flow seamlessly for the parade watchers both along the route and at home on their televisions.

We all trained for some time with those giant balloons.  A Pilot, 2 co-Pilots, a Captain, 2 co-Captains, 2 vehicles with a crew of 4 on each, two NYC Police Officers and even up to 70+ handlers all for just one balloon.  Getting ready in our white or black jumpsuits there are many high-fives and biddings of ‘Good Flight’ as we all make our way uptown to the upper East Side.  “Good Flight” is where the team works together for a successful trip through the entire parade route until the balloons are put away for next year.

The timing is crucial, and we are all connected via headsets as communication is key. Wind velocity with gusts are measured throughout and especially at every open cross street, obstacles are constantly being avoided (Street lamps have all been turned away to help), and away we go.  Launched……and all of those faces. It is a feeling of huge success when our job is completed and the balloons are all packed away.  Hours and hours of preparation—for a two-hour march.

It is all of those incredibly smiling faces that make it all worth it.  From fingers pointing to gasps, the faces of the children are just amazing.  One giant team to benefit all those kids.  I guess when you think about it—-not too unlike our wonderful diabetes community.  One big giant team to benefit so many.  There is so much to be thankful for during this holiday, my list is long and my heart is full.  Thank you to all of you who do so much to make this world a better place.

And on Friday, the diabetes community will all be back it again…..trying to make a difference because that is what we do.  Back at it.  “Good Flight” to all, and a most joyous and peaceful Thanksgiving to everyone.
I am a DiabetesDad.
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A Dream Come True…..You Can Decide Today.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Each year I enjoy the parade from my chair, but for a long, long time that was not  the case. 

A long time ago I decided that I want to be involved on the inside of the Macy’s Day Parade. It looked so cool.  How great would it be to one day march front and center down Broadway in the world’s most famous parade.

I had no idea how, but I was going to do it.  I dreamed it and now it was time to go to work.  Originally, I found out, it was easiest to enter as a clown.  So through my good friend Nancy Stanford, I got my chance and I would be a clown in my first Macy’s Parade back in 1998.

Not to go through a whole bunch of crazy details, the very next year I would become part of an elite group of people in a job coveted by any of the parade participants.  I became a ‘Pilot’.

For all intent and purposes, this elite group of about 12 people serve as the chief of the most amazing part of the parade, those incredibly large helium balloons.  Our job; manage anywhere from 15 to 90 people to guide the balloon down broadway on Thanksgiving morning successfully.

It was an amazing time for me and the crowd of millions were full of faces of kids with wide-eyes and jaws-dropped as these huge creations passed right by them.  It is those faces that made it so much fun each year.

Us Pilots knew we were an elite group that went through a lot of training to be able to say that we were part of this group.  It’s really for a younger group now; in my 50’s when I last did it 4 years ago made me one of the oldest.  It was time to retire and leave it for the younger ‘kids’ to do.  Walking backwards and looking up for miles is not as easy as it may seem.

So each year I remember that time that was so memorable…..and so worth while.  For 4 hours each year my focus was driven on making a successful ‘flight’ as we called it.  Kids actually asked us for autographs depending on who our balloon was; Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Charlie Brown, Pokemon; all crowd favorites.

One year I was finishing up and a little girl asked me if the whistle around my neck was used to control Snoopy.  I said, “Yes it was.”  SHe looked at me with these huge wide eyes; “Woooowwwwww”.

She was with her dad and I said, “Now you cannot use this whistle until your dad says you can, but why don’t you take care of it for me until next year.”  I hung the whistle around her neck and gave her my parade credentials for Snoopy. “Make sure she cleans the whistle dad before she uses it.”  I winked at her father and he nodded he understood.  The little girl could not speak as she looked at the ribbon credentials and held the whistle in her little hands.

I decided one year that I would be in the Macy’s Day Parade, and I was………in a big way.

So set your mind to do something crazy some day….decide today… may surprise yourself and end up front and center with millions of people watching.  And that is not a balloon that will burst…….believe me………I know.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

I’m a diabetesdad.