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Friday, November 26, 2021

How one man fulfilled his dream of becoming a balloon guide for a parade.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade got people excited – at least from some of the responses I got when I posted on social media last week that I would be marching with a Pikachu balloon.

As a child, I often watched the parade on TV. I have fond memories of a floating craft on Sesame Street, a vague memory of a boat with Marvel heroes and villains, and always in awe of the Superman balloon. (It turns out there were three of them. The last Man of Steel balloon last appeared in the parade in 1987.)

But as a child, I never thought about what a production should be in order to hold a successful parade. A year and a half ago, I started looking for a way to participate. (I first tried this last year, but Covid shortened the length of the parade, balloons, volunteers, and spectators.)

I was introduced to the ranks of the conductors of balloons – it is almost like a whisper, you need to know someone who knows someone – my former colleague who participated in the march many times. I told her that I wanted to join us and she helped me become a volunteer on her team this year.

Credit …Idris Solomon for The New York Times

The registration process included uploading my proof of vaccination, watching an instructional video on how to handle balloons, and more. I added a new phrase to my vocabulary: “bone work”. It is a device used to hold and tow ropes that lighten the balloons along the parade route and then to the descent zone.

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As a native New Yorker, I really want to be part of such a Big Apple experience, although luckily it will be a long day, if the predictions are correct, with mild weather. I need to check in at 7:15 AM and most likely won’t be able to make it until 12:30 PM.

As a mummy, my only concern was being late for the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition that dates back to when my sister and I worked evening shifts at The New York Times. But I dutifully visited my mother on Wednesday afternoon, asked her to watch me on TV, and promised that I would eat a lot when I got there.

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