This tradition does not involve Turkeys nor Politicians. I've lived in New England for over 20 years, and this year, for the 1st time, my wife and my granddaughter took the train to New York City, and watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In person.
We are staying in a hotel downtown. Way downtown. Close to Wall Street. So, we had to decide where we wanted to be during the parade - which has a two and a half mile route. We decided that Times Square, or close to it, would be the place. This is a mile or more from where it starts.
We arrived the night before, and thought that we might enjoy the spectacle of the balloons being filled, which takes place on 77th west of Central Park. It was a bust. We got on a bus, which we found didn't take paper money (the fare is $2), you had to have an MTA Metro Card - which works for the bus and the subway, or correct change. Well, we didn't, but the bus driver was unwilling to fight that battle, so we rode. The trip was only 20 blocks, but since many streets were blocked off AND since it was the day before The Big Family Holiday, it took a long time. Traffic was, well, undescribable. Anyway, we finally got close, we and 1/2 million other people. Bottom line, it was a bust. We should have had a better game plan, it might have worked out better. Better luck, we hoped, on Thursday - the actual parade.
Since we wanted to watch from Times Square, we got up at 6, found the right train uptown, and got in place just after 7. But, of course, there had to be Starbucks, trips to the bathroom, etc. By 8, we were settled on 41st St and Broadway, and we were ready.
I was struck by the human mini-dramas that were going on around me. We were up against a police barrier with 1000s of others. We engaged casual conversation with a police officer allowed herself to be photographed with others. She was a hoot, she seriously loved her job - at least, this aspect of it. It was nice to see. We struck up conversations, and vice verse, with several groups. One, a group of 3 30-ish sisters from California who, like us, had never seen the parade. We saw a family of 4, one of which was a teething and screaming infant. Why bring him to the parade? He clearly wasn't enjoying it, and neither was his mother, nor about 30 people close by. We saw a man about 25 trying to cross the street (it was closed where we were) twice, that nice officer told him the 2nd time that she was becoming irritated... and he showed up a 3rd time 5 minutes later wearing a different hoody and without his glasses. She wasn't fooled, and said something I couldn't make out that made him disappear. A magician!
The parade started at 9:00 am, right on the money. Of course, televised events almost always start right on time. I don't know which networks covered it, but I wasn't watching TV. Since we were more than a mile from the start, we didn't see the 1st balloons for 45 more minutes. It was getting cold. Actually it was about 45F, but my feet weren't buying it.
And then! Balloons! Macy's stars and decorations! Floats! Horses! followed by the special horse clean up crew. How do you get that job?? I wondered. More Balloons. They were so big! Gi-normous! one native shouted. Snoopy. A bright blue Smurf, all the balloon handlers had blue tunics and were wearing Smurf style knit caps. Marching bands, from the Dakotas, Arkansas, and beyond. The Eveready Bunny. Kermit the Frog. BIG groups, several hundred. Pretty girls with batons. Horton. A group of 'Second Time Arounders' with batons - these girls were in their 40s, 50s, beyond...
The cop had been tasked to maintain an lane down 41st Street wide enough to allow a vehicle - Fire Marshall rules. It was a continuous struggle as the crowd pushed forward. 1st, she told 'em. Then, there was 'Police Line' yellow tape. Then, the steel barriers. Nothing worked. So, about half way through, she winked and nodded, and the gap filled up. It was amazing. I've read of crowd psychology, but had never before been a part of it. She hadn't told her partner. He turned slowly to view the parade, the gap filled in, he turned back around - the look on his face was priceless. 'You'll have to move back!' he gave in his best cop voice, but knew it was useless. There was no moving back.
And still, the floats, the bands, the balloons came. It got to be 10... 10:30... 11... Helicopters were hovering. The sun came and went and came back - but of course, never down to the street.
And finally, Santa Claus! The arrival of Santa and Mrs Claus signaled the end of the parade. We turned to go... with 10s of 1000s of others. Getting back on the subway was another ritual, but we faked it, and made it on. Our only mistake was taking the local instead of the express... and that meant we'd be squeezed in that tin can for longer. Still, we made it.
I can't say enough for the people around us! There as a New York native, she was perhaps late 20s, her 1st parade since she was six, and she was acting like she was six! She was so excited. People offered the experience of their native-ness by telling us the best way to get from here to there, where the best restaurants were, suggestions about what to do in the evening and next day.
All in all, it was a great experience.