Thanksgiving Day began early. Before 4:00 am.
By that time, I was helping Dub get loaded up with folding chairs and blankets. He was meeting my brother Aaron in the hotel lobby at 4:15 so they could walk a few blocks to sixth avenue, and stake out our parade viewing spot. Just after 4:30 am he texted me a picture and said it was pretty quiet on the street:
Meanwhile, I was getting ready to wake the next shift. The sun was coming up, and the young adult/teenage crew were sent out to hold down more cement by 6:30.
The rest of us walked to 6th and 50th by 7:30 am.
By then, the chairs were six deep and the crowds were thickening.
Since the general public can get no where near Herald Square, we picked the next best spot in my opinion, directly across from Radio City Music Hall. It was a beautiful backdrop for a parade.
It was a C-O-L-D morning, let me tell you, and there were still more than two solid hours of waiting to be done.
Thank goodness for family, cousins and good friends.
We took turns sitting, standing and snuggling on laps while the crowd kept pushing in. 4:30 am was a brutal reporting time for Aaron and Dub, but we had prime real estate and we were grateful.
The streets livened up with parade officials and policemen as the 9:00 am step off time drew closer.
Aaron could see south Central Park with his binoculars.
He kept us apprised of what was approaching.
We might have whispered and giggled among ourselves a few times... we hoped no one thought he looked like a terrorist
First signs of the official parade approached our vantage point just before 10:00 am. We were so excited we could hardly stand it!
The festivities were finally in full swing.
We learned some interesting things about the parade by talking to many of the participants as they passed by.
In order to be eligible to participate in the parade in any way, you either have to be an employee of Macy's or be sponsored by an employee of Macy's, or receive a special invitation.
Some of us got a kick out of seeing Jimmy Fallon on the Sesame Street float.
There was one especially enthusiastic fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon in our ranks.
He got the latest book for his birthday in October, and has read all of the others almost a dozen times each. Truly a fan.
I laughed out loud when Richard Simmons came riding by on the giant turtle, flexing his legs over his shoulders and looking just as enthusiastic as I remember him from the late 1970s.
There were literally thousands of clowns marching.
Being in the front row meant a lot of face time with some of the clowns who enjoyed crowd participation.
There was a parade entry that caught most of us by surprise. Much to Mr. Dub's delight, the entire cast of Duck Dynasty was there.
Definitely a top ten moment was the celebrity-to-fan connection made between Si and Dub. I think they're soul mates.
There was so much palpable joy--don't believe for a moment that Disney has cornered the market on making dreams come true.
My friend Joy used to be in the Marine Corps band. I cheered extra loud when they went by.
We were all happy and having fun, but I'm pretty sure the smiles on our faces just froze on after a certain point. It never did warm up.
Most of us lost the feeling in our fingers and toes, but no one was willing to bail on the excitement. The kids got especially excited with the celebrity sightings. Sometimes yelling their names and sometimes calling things like "Hey Jesse!"
Spiderman was one of my personal favorites.
As I turned my head to watch him float away, I looked down the line and saw my sister-in-law being interviewed by Katy Tur of the NBC Nightly News.
Then she was talking to
the terrorist my brother Aaron, and I heard her tell the camera man "let's get some kids."
Guess who's face showed up on the Thanksgiving edition of NBC Nightly News across the nation?
I'm telling you--the day just kept getting better.
My personal favorite moment came shortly after that, when the UMass Marching Band showed up.
I might have shed a tear of joy to see my son march by.
He couldn't wave or say hi while playing "God Bless America," but if you look at that face, you'll see where his eye is looking.
I'll never forget it.