7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Driving in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ""

By | November 22, 2017

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Come Thanksgiving morning, the kitchen windows steam up, the aroma of roasting turkey wafts through the house, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on TV. Broadcast from 9 a.m. to noon (live on the East Coast, tape-delayed elsewhere), the parade is viewed in person by some 3.5 million spectators and televised to an estimated 50 million.--Between the balloon handlers, clowns, cheerleaders, dancers, marching bands, and celebrity performers, more than 2000 people take part in the parade. Unsurprisingly, we were most interested in the drivers, who tow the floats. We visited Macy’s Parade Studio, the parade headquarters, and here are seven things you may not have known about the spectacle.For this year’s parade, Ram is again the official truck, which means Ram pickups will tow all 26 floats. Those floats, once they’re loaded up with performers and kids, can weigh up to eight tons. The trucks towing them will be 1500s, 2500s, and 3500s. A 3500 Laramie Longhorn Southfork Edition will tow the Gibson Guitar float, while another 3500 will be hitched to the Singing Christmas Tree float. A white 2500 Power Wagon will tow Santa’s sleigh. Additional Ram trucks and ProMaster commercial vans are behind the scenes as well, moving costumes, tool containers, and other parade needs.Prior to 2015, which was the first year for Ram trucks, GMC pickups and SUVs did the towing. GMC’s run lasted for more than 30 years, going back to the early 1980s.The people commanding the balloons (as many as 90 per balloon) are all Macy’s employees and friends, but the drivers at the wheel of the trucks towing the floats are members of New York City’s Theatrical Teamsters union, Local 817. They’re supposed to wear jackets and ties for parade duty.Although the parade route begins on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, on Central Park West at 77th Street, the floats first need to get from the warehouse where they’re built and stored, in Moonachie, New Jersey, to the starting point in the city. For that trip, the floats, which can be as much as 50 feet long and two or three stories tall, have to be broken down to a maximum size of 8.5 feet wide by 12.5 feet high, so they can go through the Lincoln Tunnel.The trip from New Jersey into Manhattan takes place around midnight on Wednesday. Because many of the floats have been partly deconstructed, there are additional trailers carrying the attendant pieces, for a total of more than 50 in all. They travel in convoy, with an escort from multiple police agencies, through the center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel (which is briefly closed to other traffic), to the staging area just north of the parade’s official starting point.The parade route ends in front of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. From there, the floats proceed one more block west and then turn north onto Seventh Avenue, where they meet the auxiliary trailers (which have been sent to the end point before the parade starts). The floats are again partly broken down for the return trip to Jersey. This time, though, there’s no convoy and no police escort. As each float is ready, the drivers are sent off on their own, creeping slowly through the Lincoln Tunnel, in holiday traffic, back to New Jersey. Which brings up one final point . . .Jolly old Saint Nick is a fixture of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which brings him to Macy’s Herald Square for the holiday season, where he’ll listen to countless kids tell him what they want for Christmas. Towing Santa’s rig, however, is the job nobody wants. Nothing against the man in red—it’s just that his float brings up the rear, and for the drivers, that means you’re the last one to complete the route and the last to return your float to Moonachie, hours after drivers of the earliest floats are done. As one driver put it, “The guy who drives the turkey [the first float in the parade] is home in time to see the Santa Claus float on TV.” “”

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