I feel that there are certain things you have to do at least once if you live in New York City, and attending nationally televised events, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, is one of them. People fly in from all over the country and book hotel rooms close to the parade route in order to see it, so given that I live five streets away, I really have no excuse.
My plan was to wake up at 6am to secure an optimal front row spot, but I couldn’t help snoozing once…Okay, twice. I cooked and ate a nice warm egg breakfast, donned the long underwear and Goretex layers that I usually reserve for skiing trips, poured myself a bottle of hot water, downloaded a new book to my Kindle, and then set off.
By the time I got to Sixth Ave at 7:20, all of the front row spaces within three blocks were already occupied. I couldn’t find a single piece of empty railing to grab onto, so I had to settle with positioning myself just behind a pole and in between two families that had come early and set up tarps to claim the space. If you can’t spend Thanksgiving with your own family, might as well spend it with a family.
From then on, it was just a waiting game. About twenty minutes in, I realized it was too cold for Kindle reading (at least with the Kindle Paperwhite, which has a touch screen. I knew I would eventually regret not getting the one with the buttons), I didn’t have headphones, and no one in my phonebook was actually awake for a call. I honestly can’t tell you how I got through the next two hours… to be frank, probably mostly by shivering, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, and passive-aggressively defending my spot. I did chat with one of the families next to me, who came from Long Island and has been in attendance for the parade for the past 7-8 years (now THAT’S dedication), but I learned that while exploring things on your own is an adventure, waiting alone is no fun at all.
The parade started at 9am, but it took a full 40 minutes for the first wacky rollarblading clowns to wind down Central Park West and reach our stretch of Sixth Ave. I have now seen about 700 more clowns than I have ever cared to see, in all sorts of varieties: dressed like traffic signs, old grannies, graduates in gowns, and much much more. But finally what I was really there to witness, all of the floats!
And the marching bands, but really, just one or two would have been quite enough.
I really could have done without this one, which came before the Chinese culture/embassy float (I’m not reeeeally sure why China needs representation on Thanksgiving. And really? Those outfits?)
There were a host of celebrities too, none of whom I recognized except for Nick Jonas and Idina Menzel (and most of whom I missed entirely because I was distracted by their elaborate floats). But they were all saving their performances for the televised portion near 34th street, so all we saw were the smiles and waves.
Because being in the second row was still not enough to make up for my lack of height, I was basically on tip toe for the entire parade. By 10:37, I was already praying for the parade to end so that I could sit down and remember what it felt like to be warm.
Finally, finally, Santa came about an hour later:
And just like that, we kicked off Thanksgiving and ushered in Christmas! It is now socially acceptable to play Christmas songs on repeat and have Home Alone marathons, which is what I promptly did as soon as my body temperature returned to normal levels back at my apartment.
Next year (and for every year after that) I think I will watch the parade on TV, with the option to plop my butt down into a warm, comfy seat. The broadcast also gives you the best views, which no amount of physical strain or waiting in the cold would have given me at the parade in person.
Still, going to the parade is just one of those items on the bucket list that you have to cross off, just once in your life…but now I’m seriously reconsidering watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Maybe there are certain things that you should never attempt, not even once.