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on being a clown.. truly, in the macy parade

March 7, 2013

there are just some experiences that sear into our being there are many experiences that are forgetable and forgotten. some we are glad to bid adeiou and some that we vainly try to recall or are reminded of only when mentioned by another.. Being a clown in the Macy T day parade is one of the memorable ones for sure.

Again, small town America decades ago is a particular culture, with a unique view of the world stage. We knew the parade, T day morning, NBC; we were riveted to the television screen. Adults and children alike, mesmorized by the gigantic balloons, fiesty marching bands and themed clown groups througout the parade.

We had no idea that it takes from the day after T day one year to organize and get the next parade off. Herald Square was our view, the concept of the drama going on uptown as the parade units mingled at the starting line was not even conceivable… floats lined up in front of the museum, balloons blown up the night before ready to float in from the south side of the museum and all the hundreds of clowns gathered on the corner, all ready to join the parade at the right spot.

An entire floor of the Macy store is devoted to parade offices, warehouses in Hoboken buzz all year with float and balloon repair and development. All floats must fold in to a size that will allow them through the tunnel from NJ on their way to the upper west side. Parade activity the night before with floats unfloading and the swoosh, shiish of inflating balloons is an event itself.

Living in NYC, absorbing the culture of the parade, sharing the excitement of the crowds on parade day, I could not image that I would one day be a clown.. actually a captain of the clowns. I had no background, no experience.. I was recruited, needed to fill out the complement of clowns, over 700 of us. We had a clown meeting, we observed the organization of each groups themed costume rack and we were told what time to show up… 4am on T day morning..

Herald square was already brightly lit at that early hour, abuzz with bands practicing, clowns converging on herald square from all directions and the engery was palpable. We took the freight elevators to the 19th floor, found our costumes and our make -up section. With 700 clowns to create, there was no time to disucss, our volunteer artists created our personas with thick gooey colors, and off we went…

down the freight elevator, onto busses and uptown to our corner… we checked in our groups and begain the wait, a couple of hours of anticipation, photographs and conversation… Finally, the parade master stood tall, welcomed us to the … annual Macy’s day parade and it begain…

that first time, I was jingling with excitement, yet unaware of of the fabulous 2 mile journey ahead. The bands blasted, the music from the floats blared and the crowds screamed with anticipation… the floats stick to the middle of the road, the balloon handlers manage their behemouth creations on a meandering journey and the clowns are free to run a bit ahead, daddle a bit behind, weave around their unit and reach out to the children lining the street… children who believe we are clowns, who don’t know that we are ordinary humans who forgot to take the garbage out before leaving for the city, they look at us with stars in their eyes, many of them too young to know or care who the famous guest stars high above on the huge far away floats are, but very clear about the role of the clown… a friend already, near, touchable..

and I became that clown… my ordinary self drifted away during that time, my heart became my face, a clown face and I joyously shared in the miracle of the T day parade.

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From → Family, Life, Macy's

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