For over 80 years, millions of Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving with the spectacular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade either tuned in to NBC or on the streets of New York City.
The 84th edition of the parade will feature 15 giant character balloons; 43 novelty/ornament balloons, balloonicles and balloonheads; 27 floats; 1,600 cheerleaders, dancers and performance group members; 800 clowns; 12 marching bands; and a host of celebrity performers.
This Thanksgiving will be no different as this event is a parade of spirits. Millions will line the streets to watch the grand parade with an impressive line-up of floats, musical performances, celebrity appearances and oversized helium-filled balloons representing animated TV characters.
Some of today’s brightest stars from the world of stage, screen, and music will ride atop the parade’s moving stages down the historic route. This year’s star-studded cast include: India Arie, Big Time Rush, Betty Buckley, Ann Hampton Callaway, the casts of Broadway’s American Idiot, Elf, Memphis and Million Dollar Quartet, the Big Apple Circus, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, Miranda Cosgrove, Jimmy Fallon & The Roots, Gloriana, Michael Grimm, Arlo Guthrie, Keri Hilson, Eric Hutchinson Juanes, Victoria Justice, Gladys Knight, Mannheim Steamroller, Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih, Power Rangers Samurai, Joan and Melissa Rivers, Crystal Shawanda, Jessica Simpson and Kanye West.
Jimmy Fallon & The Roots will be among the special appearances. I had the opportunity to speak with one of The Roots founding members, QuestLove and the person who is behind this mass parade, senior vice president of Macy’s Parade & Entertainment Group, Robin Hall. Find out what QuestLove is looking forward to this year and Robin’s most memorable moments.
By: Daedrian McNaughton
Daedrian McNaughton: Quest, your schedule has been packed with major shows and appearances, like the Hennessey Artistry in Miami, and the upcoming Macy’s Parade. How do you prepare yourself mentally and otherwise for these events, and why are you joining the parade this year and what is your theme for this year?
Questlove: Well, this actually marks the second time that we will have done the Macy’s Parade. We did it last year, so I guess you can say that this time I will be uber prepared with a lot of thermal gear and with things that will keep me warm. Because playing drums in the cold for three hours straight is not a task that I prepared for before, so I kind of learned the hard way last year.
Robin Hall: Do you think it was – this is Robin Hall, do you think it was cold last year?
Questlove: It wasn’t that cold last year, but you know, when – I mean, not for, you know, the average Joe. It was kind of nice last year, but to a musician…
Robin Hall: Oh, I see.
Questlove: …you know, anything below 70 degrees is freezing. Even on the set, you know, well Letterman sort of started the trend, but even on our set they have to keep it at about 66 degrees on the set or else, you know, the fire alarms will go off. So…
Robin Hall: Got it. All right.
Questlove: …I kind of have to adjust the (playing field a little bit).
Robin Hall: I will put in a word with Al Roker and we will see what we can do.
Questlove: No, we’ll be prepared, trust me. I’ll…
Robin Hall: Okay.
Questlove: …I’m going to have the hand warmy – the hands will be covered
Robin Hall: Okay. Yeah, wear layers. That’s what we tell all the kids.
Questlove: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Robin Hall: All right.
Questlove: But other than that, I guess to answer your question, you know, it’s just about, you know, we – you have to have fun. We had a lot of fun last year. Like it’s kind of weird because when you go from city block to city block you’re basically the first experience to, you know, the person that’s watching you. So, it’s kind of weird sort of restarting again every block as if, you know, that’s the first time you’ve been, you know, on a parade float. So, we’re definitely – we’re super uber prepared this time than we were last year.
Daedrian McNaughton: Okay. And Mr. Hall, I noticed that you will no longer be responsible for the parade?
Robin Hall: Yeah.
Daedrian McNaughton: What has been your most memorable moment working the Thanksgiving Parade?
Robin Hall: With the exception of Questlove’s first appearance, I would say my most memorable parade probably was my first one. It happened in 2001, I had started the job in January, and as you know we had the disaster of the World Trade Center in September. And it was the most difficult of all the parades we’ve had. It was, I think, the most emotional.
It was certainly – it was a parade that we had to try to keep together because so many people all over the country were worried about coming to New York. They started to – the bands started to cancel, the kids started to cancel, the cheerleaders, parents were calling asking all kinds of frantic questions. It was very, very complicated, and I was brand new in the job.
As it was, the gentleman who runs our parade studio puts everything together, balloon and float-wise, and I was working with a brand new team. I had a – my top operations guy was out with cancer. It was a very difficult year for me. But, I will tell you it was the parade of parades. I mean, I – it – I’ve never been involved in anything that’s been so emotionally moving as this, and it was an enormous, enormous success that year, despite everyone’s prediction that no one was going to come to the streets that year.
The – as you know, we have that genuine Santa Clause in the parade and he’s being doing it for many, many years and said he had never in his existence seen so many people on the streets. And, you know, I think it was one of the things truly that helped the City to heal that year. That and the World Series, I thought were amazing events that just brought everybody back together.
And – but each and every one of these parades has had its moments, each and every one of them has been a remarkable experience in and of itself. And Questlove and Jimmy last year (was relaxed they were). See, I’m not sure that uber prepared is what we want to be. This is a spontaneous event, it’s an event that has – that’s just – it’s rooted and fun, and I don’t think there’s a bigger large – bigger liver audience anywhere in the world for this parade. I think we probably have three or four million people watching live, and then many millions more on television.But, the live audience is what fuels that. It’s fantastic.
Daedrian McNaughton: And one short question for both of you. What are you most looking forward to for this?
Robin Hall: Quest, you want to go first or do you want me to…
Questlove: What am I looking most forward to? I kind of have to tell you that last year we had to share a trailer with – you know, when he was getting his makeup put on, you know, I just thought it was just a generic Ronald McDonald until he informed me that he is the only person has ever played Ronald McDonald, which, you know, then the kid in all of us started coming out simply because we were like, “Wait, you’re the same Ronald McDonald from all those commercials and he said, “Yes, that’s me. I’ve been playing him for 38 years.”
That was one of the most hilarious, funniest moments of our lives because we were no longer in our late 30’s and early 40’s. Like all of us instantly turned into 12 year olds because we were like in a trailer with Ronald McDonald, which to me, you know, that was just one of the many surprises that we’ve gotten.
You know, I’m just looking forward – you know, it’s Thanksgiving. Even though The Roots are going to hop a plane to London that night, I’m just looking forward to, you know, having fun with the guys. Like, this is – a lot of people ask like, “What is this transition like to go from like 19 years of touring of the world and, you know, being, you know, a rap group on tour, and then suddenly doing this transition to late night?” But, you know, this is really the time of our lives.
Like, we’re genuinely having fun and enjoying ourselves. Like, we don’t see this as work at all. So, I’m just enjoying every experience. You know, this kind of brings the kid out in all of us, so I’m enjoying it.
Robin Hall: And this is going to be my last march. It’s my tenth and I thought that was a great number for me. I am handing the scissors over to a young lady who has been my producer for ten years and has been here for each and every one of the fantastic moments of each and every one of the difficult ones.
And I’m staying on here at Macy’s, but I’m going to be refocusing my attentions to the parade suit and a whole bunch of other initiatives that I haven’t really been able to do doing the day-to-day on the parade and the fireworks. So, I’m looking forward to that sort of proud transition to her.
She’s a great lady. Her name is Amy Kule and she will do an incredible job going forward on the parade.
NBC KICKS OFF THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH THE 84TH ANNUAL MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE® ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25 (9:00A.M. – NOON ALL TIME ZONES)