By Alex P. Vidal
“It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade.”—Erno Rubik
PARDON me for being a child again, but I was among the thousands of excited and screaming spectators who watched and welcomed back the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with open arms, and under picture-perfect skies, as the iconic march returned for its 95th year on November 25 in the streets of New York City.
It was a different feeling watching the parade unfold “live” before your eyes.
The risk of being maimed by different warm and large bodies in the crowd was worth it. Never mind the cold temperature. I missed the thrill and excitement for straight two years (in 2019 because I was in New Jersey, and in 2020, the pandemic year).
The parade route, which covered 2.5 miles (4km) through Manhattan, with more than 8,000 marchers taking part, was filled with a big crowd coming from the different states and countries, a manifestation that the Empire City struck by pandemic since 2020, was back with a vengeance.
The child in me got fascinated with Baby Yoda, Snoopy and Papa Smurf, who were among the balloons spotted flying over the packed streets of Manhattan, while at ground level, marching bands, performers and, of course, a turkey kept the crowds entertained.
Baby Yoda, who delighted fans in the Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian, was actually a new balloon for 2021.
Also, the other first-timers who made their debut as a pair were Pokemon characters Pikachu and Eevee.
It felt like there were more people than ever before lining the streets from Central Park West down to Herald Square.
Thousands of marchers, hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats-and, of course, Santa Claus-marked the latest U.S. holiday event to make a comeback as vaccines, familiarity and sheer frustration made officials and some of the public more comfortable with big gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.
Safety measures continued as parade staffers and volunteers had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks, though some singers and performers were allowed to shed them.
There was no inoculation requirement for spectators, it was reported, but Macy’s and the city encouraged them to cover their faces.
The parade stepped off at 9 o’clock in the morning on the Upper West Side, and what followed were all the sights and sounds this one-of-a-kind parade has delivered for decades.
The parade, the most colorful and most well-attended in the world, featured 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 inflatables, 9 performance groups and a host of celebrities, including Jon Batiste, Kristin Chenoweth, Foreigner, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood and Santa Claus.
Some of those balloons were four stories high and as wide as a New York City taxicab.
Also taking part were 10 marching bands from all across the country and 800 very enthusiastic clowns.
They marched the 2.5 mile parade route with joy-and it was very much what New Yorkers needed after last year’s made-only-for-television parade, which was shortened to one block due to the pandemic.
“Everyone’s masked, I’m vaccinated, we feel safe,” said one woman. “And it’s great starting to get things back. It’s great to see the city coming back again.”
The balloons were blown up Wednesday (November 24) ahead of their Thanksgiving Day flights, with the annual inflation event from noon until 6 o’clock in the evening for vaccinated guests only.
Thirty-six novelty and heritage inflatables joined this year’s edition.
The new class of balloons included Ada Twist, Scientist by Netflix; a Funko Pop! inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda) from the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian;” Ronald McDonald by McDonald’s USA; and Pikachu & Eevee by The Pokémon International Company.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two Iloilo dailies.—ED)