Anatomy of a Thanksgiving Weekend in New York

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Thanksgiving Day in New York is of course the day of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, now a tradition which was begun in the Big Town 99 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).

A giant cat is pulled by clowns during the 1933 Newark Thanksgiving Day parade sponsored by Bamberger’s. Courtesy of Newark Public Library

In the beginning, Macy’s employees, dressed in costumes, with floats, professional bands and animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo would march from Columbus Circle down to Macy’s flagship store. When they got to Herald Square, with the crowds lining the streets, they were greeted by Santa Claus crowned at “King of the Kiddies” on a throne on a balcony over the 34th Street entrance.

The first time this happened 250,000 people watched and that was that for Macy’s management: it was deemed to be an annual event.

These days, up on Central Park West where the parade is put together 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.

Before long, the parade graduated to the big city.

It’s also a big big attraction to our friend Paige Peterson who for most of the 40 years she’s lived here has been hosting a night-before party at her apartment on CPW. 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, which Paige loves to share with friends and family who all come for a drink and then walk a few blocks to watch the floats being assembled and the balloons being filled with helium and netted down for the night.

The appeal of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is that the format is unchanging. Only the most popular balloons and the hottest stars change. Because America loves tradition, each year there are more viewers. This year was the biggest television audience since NBC started broadcasting the parade in 1953 — 28.5 million viewers, the largest ever recorded, the most-watched entertainment program of the year.

The guests start to arrive — Ben Limberg, Lisa Schultz, Dr. Ezriel Kornel, and Peter Cary Peterson — at Paige’s Thanksgiving Eve Party.
Paige Peterson, David Lewis, and Nancy Collins.
Dr. Ezriel Kornel.
L. to r.: Sara Moskowitz, Brianna Geist, and Paige Peterson; Ben Limberg and Peter Cary Peterson.
Brianna Geist, Heidi Paige Geist, Joe Geist, Abdulaziz Alshammari, and Saad Hazari.
L. to r.: Sharon King Hoge, Richard Conway, and Greta Weil; Sharon King Hoge and Sam Whipple.
Cary Whipple, Chris Whipple, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Natasha Hirschfeld, Ben Zeitzman, and David Lewis.
Peter Cary Peterson high-fiving Sam Limberg and Jack Limberg.
Julian Schuster.
Nancy Collins, Lisa Schultz, and Dr. Owen Lewis.
L. to r.: Brianna Geist and Lucia Corral; Dr. Doug Steinbrech, Paige Peterson, and Jeff Sharp.
Greg Schuster, Heidi Paige Geist, and Carey Schuster.
L. to r.: Daren Khairule and Brooklyn Khairule; Madison du Bain and Donald du Bain.
Kate Draper, Piper Schuster, and Brianna Geist.
Kate Draper, Piper Schuster, Finley Schuster, Julian Schuster, Caris Schuster, Kylee Geist, Carolina Carol, Brianna Geist, Carey Schuster, and Dr. Ezriel Kornel.
David Lewis, Kate Draper, Piper Schuster, Brianna Geist, Devon Geist, Julian Schuster, Lucia Coral, Madison du Bain, Carolina Coral, and Kylee Geist.
Carolina Coral, Kylee Geist, Julian Schuster, Carey Schuster, and David Lewis.
Kylee posing for the camera.
Peter Cary Peterson, Brianna Geist, Kylee Geist, Paige Peterson, Heidi Paige Geist, Devon Geist, and Joe Geist.

In previous years, the floats arrived on Central Park West a few hours before the parade began; this year, they were at 86th Street at 1 AM the DAY BEFORE. For only the second year, high cyclone fences were up before the floats arrived, and once the floats were lined up, they were guarded. When Paige left her apartment hours before the parade to photograph the floats, she had to hand her phone through the fence to workers who took pictures for her. When the fence was briefly opened for a truck, she slipped in behind it and took as many images as she could before a policeman graciously escorted her out.

Busted! According to Paige, the “policeman couldn’t have been nicer or more patient as he escorted me out of the cyclone barriers.”

Then on Thanksgiving morning, Paige and her party watched the Big Event from the apartment of Peter Brown (which is on the boulevard) where Paige and Devon Geist took in the entire amazing spectacular production as the parade began its journey down to Herald Square. You may have watched it on television, but their pictures are more like just being there.

Devon taking it all in …
Peter Cary watching the passing parade.

As you can see, it was a beautiful day to see the work of tens of thousands of people who create, work on, participate in its execution, and begin again working on it almost immediately for next year’s Thanksgiving Day extravaganza! And the kiddies still find it fascinating including this way-too-old kiddie!

Now, on to the main event!

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