Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade gets more personal this year

Saturday, November 11th 2006, 7:46 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is getting more personal this year.

Hundreds of wannabe parade clowns were being trained Saturday by professionals from the Big Apple Circus to lend the nationally televised event ``more humanity, more solid, heartfelt warmth, more one-on-one contact with people along the parade route,'' said Liz Bolick, a professional clown with the troupe.

``We don't want artificiality,'' Bolick said.

On November 23rd, the parade will be sprinkled with 800 amateur clowns, armed with flying confetti and blowing bubbles for 2 1/2 miles down Broadway. There'll be everything from patriotic clowns to class clowns, all-star baseball clowns and banana-split clowns.

Parade clowns are volunteers, recruited by Macy's employees, who have the privilege of contacting anyone they wish.

On Saturday morning, volunteers from as far away as California, Colorado and Florida gathered at the Pennsylvania Hotel in midtown Manhattan to go through their funny paces in an 18th-floor room with a panoramic view of the city.

``I love the enthusiasm in this room,'' said Barry Lubin, who plays Grandma clown at Big Apple Circus. ``And I love the enthusiasm of New Yorkers. We the clowns are the binding thread. You represent every man, woman and child you go up to, the humanity that is the most important thing in the parade.''

The doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and teachers in the group also got some practical tips: Before they're zipped into their clown suits, they should hit the bathroom. In addition, during the parade: No smoking, no sipping coffee or chewing gum, no cell phone calls.

``And no excessive drinking,'' joked Sue Mazursky, a Macy's vice president for corporate planning who has 11 family members participating in the parade.

The clowns are the only parade participants who have direct contact with the more than 1 million spectators expected along the route. Each time the parade stops for a few minutes, clown ``captains'' will honk a horn so each group of clowns will perform their act.

Some brought their big red noses to Saturday's event. Others brought their children.

``She was with me last year too,'' said Fran Nesturrick, of Baldwin, Long Island, holding her 8-month-old daughter, Sophie.

Nesturrick, Macy's staff director for cosmetics and fragrances, is the parade's Supreme Clown Commander.

She'll be overseeing the team of clowns set to go from the staging ground at West 77th Street and Central Park West, after putting on their costumes at The New Yorker hotel.

Susan Massa, a real estate agent from Westfield, N.J., who is heading for her seventh year as a parade clown, is among the ``Silly Seaside'' bunch of clowns who will wear 1920s swimsuits and march with a bathtub. ``I do it for the eye contact with people.''