Having be born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, there are lots of touristy things I haven’t done. I’ve never been to the top of the Empire State Building, I was never to the top of the World Trade before they were destroyed, never spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square. While I have been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, I’d never been down the night before to see the balloons being blown up in preparation for the parade.
That changed this year.
For several years, my sister has been working for a woman who lives just off Central Park West, on one of the streets used as a staging area for the parade. The woman has been generous and offered to have us down to see the balloons several years in a row now, but with travel and other constraints, we haven’t been able to.
Until this year!
Now, the way it works is that all the streets being used as staging areas are around the Museum of Natural History. The museum side of the streets are open to the public, but there are thousands of people, hours long waits, and general insanity. The opposite side of the streets are residential and closed to the public- unless you are an invited guest of someone who lives on that street. Thus, my sister’s boss’ invitation allowed us past the barricades, onto West 77th street- the street the marked the start of the parade!
Unlike the public access side, the residential side wasn’t crowded or crazy. Mabel could walk around without even holding hands, without fear of us losing her in a crowd. We got to see several balloons- Hello Kitty, Charlie Brown (and his football), the Paul Frank Monkey, a dragon, Pikachu, Kermit the Frog, Kung Fu Panda, and other assorted ornaments, stars, and bobble-headed presidents and pilgrims.
When we arrived, Kung Fu Panda was just fabric on the ground. As we stood and watched, and walked back and forth, it was blown up. Very cool!
There were big tanker trucks of helium up and down the street, nets over all the balloons, and it was really neat to watch how the teams work together to blow up each balloon in sections. If you watched the parade, you probably saw that Pikachu had some ear problems- guess they missed that part!
The other cool thing was, because we were at the starting point of the parade, Mayor Bloomberg paid a visit!
We were waiting on the corner for Aunt Meg, when I noticed security and a fleet of black SUVs. I said to Mac that somebody must be here. Looking around there were lots of press and staff milling around. Sure enough, by eavesdropping on conversations, I hear “Bloomberg”. Since we were already waiting for Aunt Meg, we decided to also wait for the Mayor to make an appearance.
Sure enough, he did, and Mac snapped this photo. I totally got a kick out of it.
After the Mayor passed by, Aunt Meg appeared and we actually got to up to her boss’ apartment. Looking down on the balloons from 13 stories up was kind of amazing. The picture on the bottom right was taken from the window- it definitely doesn’t do it justice.
Mabel had lots of fun- although she didn’t remember the parade from previous years, so I don’t think it really sunk in what she was seeing.
However, the next morning, she sat with Aunt Meg and watched the parade. Once she saw the balloons floating down the street, she realized and got a big kick out of it.
The other thing she was excited about was the performance by the cast of “Annie,” the revival of which just opened on Broadway. Aunt Meg and I made a really big deal of watching it because tonight, we’re taking Mabel to see it! It will be her first Broadway show- just as it was for me almost 30 years ago!
With Mabel being so young, the fact that we only saw one street’s worth of balloons was fine. Given how insane the opposite side of the street was (you can see in the bottom right picture that the crowds were a dozen people deep- which wouldn’t allow you to see much of anything), I don’t think we’ll ever do all of the balloons (our invitation only gave us access to the street on which Meg’s boss lives and not all of them). It was so pleasant and fun on the residential side- no crowds, easy to see everything, nobody pushing or shoving, nobody rushing you to move on- that I think we’ll stick with that one street as long as we’re invited.
Aunt Meg- I’m sure you’ll read this, so thanks again for orchestrating this amazing opportunity ! We’re lucky to have you!