how we spent our thanksgiving

I am lucky enough to work for a very large US based retailer who has a parade every year on the fourth Thursday in November.  Yes, that parade…  And we got to be balloon handlers!

We rode the train from Jersey into New York in the dark, painfully aware that everything would have been much easier if we still had our West Village apartment…  The train was packed with happy parade-goers getting ready to stake out their piece of the route.

We ate apples and cheese that my Better Half had brought (I am barely sentient on any morning and this was a particularly early morning…).

the empire state building is barely awake
even the empire state building is barely awake
police at o'dark thirty in the am.  gearing up for the big event
police at o’dark thirty gearing up for the big event

Let me tell you, the thing is run like a well-oiled machine.  Get in line.  Get your papers checked.  Suit up in provided coveralls, hat and gloves.  Get in line to get on the bus.  Be bussed to the start of the parade route.

this is the line for the bus
this is the line for the bus

Then the fun begins!

the line up on 81st street
the line up on 81st street
getting closer!
getting closer!
there he is!  our main man!
there he is!

The balloons were inflated and kept under giant nets so they wouldn’t float away.  There were 81 of us Smurf handlers but they only needed 67.  We also had a small tug-type truck that the balloon was anchored to in case it got away from us.  Let me tell you: it was hard work.  Hand and feet warmers were a must.

we love our Papa!
we love our Papa!

It snowed a little (which was fun and looked cool against the giant balloon we fighting to keep from taking off into space) and rained a bit more (which wasn’t as fun since the rain water ran off Papa and onto our heads).  We had to stay underneath our rope anchor and maintain tension on the ropes while walking or jogging in formation.  Raising or lowering the balloon required everyone to twist the rope holders at the same time and pay attention to the guy in charge.

i am cold and happy
I am cold and happy

Sure, it was cold and tiring…  However, it was completely worth it because of the incredible happiness that we spread by flying our balloon down the streets of New York City.  I have never been around as many happy, joyful people as on that parade route.  Laughter, smiles, waves, shouts of “Papa Smurf!” and “Happy Thanksgiving!” greeted us.

No pictures from the parade (keep both hands on the rope!).  We helped to deflate/roll up the balloon at the end (don’t stand in front of the escaping helium!).  Our walk back to the staging area to gather our real coats, hats and gloves got lots of “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes from passers-by on the street.  One elderly couple walked up to us and thanked us for participating.  We asked them if they had seen the parade and they said that they never do; they just appreciated that we took time out of our Thanksgiving to make so many people happy.  It warmed my heart.


Cold, tired and hungry we went home and I cooked a small-portion feast in our new oven.

appetizer of crumbed, baked oysters.  We had too much to drink to take pictures of the rest of the meal...
appetizer of crumbed, baked oysters. I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the meal…  I think I’ll blame the champagne.

5 thoughts on “how we spent our thanksgiving

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