From 1991 to 2005, I helped America celebrate an American television tradition, turkey and pumpkin pie: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I loved getting up early and heading to Herald Square, seeing all the people bundled up in the stands or gathering on the sidewalks to see the giant balloons, floats, marching bands, pop singers, and Broadway stars. This was a tailor-made event for my co-host of many years, the irrepressible Willard Scott. Willard was like a kid in a candy store: he loved all the color and pomp.
But the majority The fun was a few days before the parade, when we did the table reading. Along with the producers and Macy’s executives, we would read the often corny copy and Willard would crack jokes all the time, making fun of everything and everyone. He would have the whole group in full stitches and get us all in the mood for the big event. On the day of, she often had to slap Willard (lovingly) off-camera to get him to read the prompter when he wasn’t paying attention. Timing was everything, and we couldn’t be late describing Garfield the Cat or Barney’s “Super-dee-duper” balloon.
Meanwhile, getting ready to host the show was a wardrobe challenge. She would always have to find the perfect outfit: she would look for a nice coat, with a matching scarf and gloves. Y (of course) a hat that completed the whole look. In fact, my hats became something of a joke, like the pd eastman book, Come on dog, come on! I would ask Willard, “Do you like my hat?” To which he would reply, “Yeah, yeah, I like your hat!” (Have a look at the book if you don’t get the joke.) When I look back at some of the capeaus I’ve chosen in the past, I’m pretty mortified. Some of them were downright egregious, though others have stood the test of time, more or less.
A few years ago, Billy Eichner asked me to co-host his own version of the parade for his show. Billy in the street, complete with strange balloons. (“Look! It’s Rooney Mara! Here come the publicists, all young women on their phones drinking iced coffee…”) It was a riot. I played very direct, which Billy appreciated. And this was actually one of my favorite hats of all:
The Macy’s parade is the result of months of hard work: the team begins planning for next year’s parade on Friday morning. It is also the result of hours of dedication by marching bands across the country. This is their time to shine, so don’t stand aside when they show up. Even though the artists sing along with a background track, their lips May does not fit the letter. But appreciate the fact that they’re up at dawn to entertain you while you’re still in your pajamas! And cheer on my successors, Savannah and Hoda, for coming out and getting excited about the Baby Sinclair dino balloon. (I’m personally excited to see Lea Michele sing some of funny girl – hopefully “Don’t rain on my parade!”)
In an era when there aren’t as many institutions people still trust, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade remains a crowd pleaser that almost anyone can enjoy. (I don’t anticipate many family fights over your favorite float or balloon.) Thursday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies, so while you chop the celery for the stuffing, slice the apples for the pie, or just pour yourself another cup of coffee, have a time to say hello to all the people who have said, “Let’s have a parade” since 1924. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Want to know a little more about the creation of the show and the woman who breathed new life into it in the 1970s? Check out this video about the amazing Jean McFaddin.