While most people are up early preparing their turkey on Thanksgiving morning, I was busy preparing a different kind of bird – a peacock, specifically. But not just any peacock: NBC's glittery float that I marched beside as a float escort in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year.
For the sake of this story, I feel it only appropriate that I give you a "bird's-eye view" of what it's like to be in the parade – from the very beginning to the tail end.
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My alarm clock sounded at 5:15 a.m., which marked the start of my very unique day. Everyone who takes part in the parade, whether you're a clown or a float escort, has a call time at 6:00 a.m. and must report to costume and makeup.
When I arrived at check-in, I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of other volunteers excitedly slipping on their costumes. People dressed as decked-out pies with cherries on top, silly bakers with cupcakes on their heads, jellyfish with glittery tentacles and an abundance of clowns that seemed to multiply by the second.
Part of the excitement of participating in the parade is not knowing what your costume will be until the morning of. In years past, I've been a clown, a cookie and a cowboy, so you can imagine my surprise on Thursday when I found out I was... a DOT!
My fellow dots and I later learned we were technically "stagehands" to accompany Girls5eva, the fictional band from the Peacock series of the same name that performed on our float – with stars Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Once in costume, I boarded the team bus filled with excitement (and elves) as we headed uptown to the start of the 95th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This dot was ready to make her mark!
When we arrived at the top of the parade on Central Park West, we had to find our places in the lineup. As I walked over, balloons were inflating and taking to the sky: to the left of me, a giant SpongeBob SquarePants, to the right of me, a huge Baby Yoda. The thrill of it all really kicked in once I stepped off the curb and officially onto the parade route and saw my assigned float.
The towering, sparkling animatronic specimen was a beautiful sight to behold. The band, Girls5eva, took to the stage perched at the top. We were all in place and ready! At 8:59 a.m., the countdown began – and when the clock struck 9:00 a.m., NBC's Al Roker exclaimed his traditional proclamation, "Let's have a parade!"
While we waited our turn to march, our "Float Captain" taught us choreography and distributed our iPads (a crucial element for our "float escort" duties this year).
Once we entered the parade route, high energy, big waves and audience interaction were to be in effect for the two-plus-mile route down the streets of New York City. Since Peacock is NBC's new streaming platform, the entirety of the parade was live-streamed with cameras directed on the in-person attendees! Our iPads (disguised in big NBC-colored circles) were set to camera mode, capturing the excitement of the crowd.
Although there are thousands of viewers lining the streets (a crowd roughly 12 people deep), an aspect that's especially important to remember is to also look up while marching. Thanks to N.Y.C.'s iconic skyscrapers, there are plenty of people looking out the windows of the tall buildings all along the route. They, too, want to make a connection with us, whether it be a simple exchange of a wave or a smile.
While we jumped, skipped and danced for the crowd, we were greeted with selfies, cheers and iPhone cameras in response. Seeing the joyful reaction on everyone's faces, from both children and adults alike, is what makes this experience so unforgettable.
Shake Ya Tailfeather.
As we neared the end of the parade route, one would think the show was over – but it had only just begun because now, it was TV time. I may have just performed in front of 3 million in-person spectators lining the route, but now I'd be performing in front of 50 million people watching around the world.
When our float rounded the bend and turned onto 34th Street, the music on our float went silent. Suddenly, the attendees were replaced with producers and the iPhones replaced with professional cameras. It was showtime.
Following the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon in the lineup, it was finally the sparkly peacock's big moment to shine. We inched our way up and planted ourselves directly in front of Macy's Herald Square, the final destination of our journey. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw hosts Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker – Thanksgiving Day Parade staples.
Eduardo Munoz Avarez/AP/Shutterstock
Proud as a Peacock.
The music sounded, the spotlights shined and the cameras rolled as Girls5eva sang and I danced one last time. My fellow dots and I busted out our learned choreography, as we watched ourselves on the giant TV monitors in front of us.
When the cameras cut and I finished the parade route, there were many thoughts swirling through my over-stimulated head. The first is how thankful I am for the opportunity to take part once again in this amazing experience. The second was how ready I was to trade in this bird for some turkey with my family – Happy Thanksgiving!