Monday, November 27, 2017

Watching the Parade come together

Walking the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo: Paige Peterson.
Monday, November 27, 2017. A long holiday weekend that flew by despite very little activity other than shopping for food and supplies, walking and feeding the dogs, reading, eating, and worrying about all of it. The weather has been mild although occasionally cold and quite unusually at times, on the warm side. The city has been poetically quiet considering all the news out there.

A clown float in downtown Newark during the early years of the Bamberger's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Courtesy of the Newark Public Library.
Thanksgiving Day in New York is of course the day of the Macy’s Parade, now a tradition which was begun in the Big Town 93 years ago in 1924. To give credit where it’s due, the parade was originally started in Newark by Louis Bamberger of Bamberger’s department store. (In 1929, RH Macy purchased Bamberger’s which kept its name for several decades and finally closed its doors in 1991).

Meanwhile, up on Central Park West where the parade is put together and even under preparation is a big big attraction for a lot of New Yorkers as well as the out-of-towners who come here for the thrill of it all.

It is a big big attraction to our friend Paige Peterson who for the last 20 years or more has been hosting a night-before party at her apartment on CPW with its view of the ongoing operations blowing up the balloons with helium and getting the Thanksgiving morn parade organized.
Shaun Woodward, Jillian Friedman and Eric Alterman
Nicholas Frankl, Anna Frankl, and Lina El-Fil
Janet Wolf and Paige Peterson
Susan Cheever and Jane Friedman
Victoria and Anki Leeds
Richard Conway and Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Jeff Sharp, Peter Brown, Shaun Woodward, Imogen lloyd Webber, and Doug Steinbrech
Caroline and John Josephson
Jesse Kornbluth and Danielle Evin
Heidi Paige Geist and Peter Cary Peterson
Nancy Collins, Mason Alban, and Lina El-Fil
Brianna Geist, Jack Sharp Steinbrech, and Devon and Kylee Geist
The following morning at the crack of dawn, our hostess is up and at 'em with camera in hand covering the beginning of the parade for the NYSD.

Our intrepid reporter braving the cold.
Paige writes: One of the joys of living on the third floor of a building on Central Park is a privileged view of some of the city's traditions. For most of the 35 years I've lived here I've given a party the night before the Thanksgiving parade so friends can come for a drink and then walk a few blocks to watch the balloons being filled with helium and netted down for the night.

It was different this year. Because a terrorist in a rented pickup truck killed 8 people near the Freedom Tower, the entire route of the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade was a high security zone.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Central Park West was closed to all vehicles starting in the early afternoon. Garbage trucks sat lengthwise at every intersection on Columbus Avenue. At the corner of every cross street to Central Park West there was a parked police car.
At midnight the floats began to line up in front of my building. The lineup is always different. One year the Sesame Street float was parked just outside my living room. Another year it was the Domino Sugar float. This year I had a surreal view of The Hallmark Float.
Watching the Floats being inflated, the night before the parade.
The next morning.
On Thanksgiving morning the bands practice on the sidewalks. I make coffee, and then I go out to take pictures.

Due to the intense security I knew I had to get to the street earlier than usual.

At 6:15 AM, with the temperature at 31 degree, I walked past people waiting for the 9 AM start of the parade.
My mission was to photograph as many details as possible. Parade participants waiting on the sidewalks for the parade's start are a visual feast of color and pageantry.
At 84th Street, Security asked me to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. I did. A block south I made my way back onto the street. Three blocks later I was again asked to get behind the barricades on to the sidewalk. I did.
The NYPD moving me along (with a few smiles) ...
The next block I jumped back on to the street to photograph as many participants, floats and balloons as possible before winding up with the Panthers A&M Marching Band from Prairie View University. (From the school's website: "The very soul and spirit of every historically black university is conveyed through its marching band. From the deep, rich sounds of the tubas, the elegance of the majorettes down to the exuberant dance routines of the drum majors, college life would not be the same without its bands. With that in mind, no marching band comes close to uplifting its fans like the Prairie View A&M University 'Marching Storm.'")
I befriended some very cold cheerleaders and musicians. They were high-spirited, dynamic kids, excited to be the first marching band in the parade, just behind the police motorcycles. I spent the next two hours huddled with them, watching the tubas and drummers practice.
When the parade started, I walked ahead of the band until I reached Peter Brown's building and then peeled off into the hordes of people lining the streets. Going against the stream through the mob of bystanders I eventually made it to security in the building. I found my way through the maze of basement halls until I got to Peter's apartment.
Looking up at Peter's balcony.
My considerably warmer family was already out on the balcony. As the balcony is on the second floor of the building, it's a perfect place to document the parade. The volume of noise is remarkable; it comes in swells as the parade passes by.

At one point I heard alarming screams. A gust of wind on this frigid but calm day blew the candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped. As the balloon floated to the pavement, police and handlers quickly carried it to the side of the street and the parade continued on.
Before the pop!
The guests at Peter Brown's took turns on the balconies.
Watching from the warmth inside the apartment through the windows was at times an utter relief from the cold.
As Santa's float — the last float — floated by our balcony we gathered our belongings and headed for the street. As the crowd dispersed, it was fun to walk down Central Park West awash in colorful confetti. Another wonderful New York City tradition.
The final float.
Peter Cary Peterson, Devon Geist, Joe Geist, Heidi Paige Geist, Kylee Geist, Paige Peterson, and Brianna Geist.

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