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Clowning Around at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The Experiences of a Former Parade Clown

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

“The year my siblings and I were in the Macy’s Parade, 1988,” reads the caption of a photo posted to Facebook showing my mom, her two younger twin sisters and her sister-in-law, all with faces painted white with blue cheeks and red noses. I always heard growing up that my mom, grandfather, aunts and uncle were all in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but never actually asked the story of how it all happened. When I was home from college for my Thanksgiving break, I was in my pajamas watching the parade on TV and scrolled to see her post on my phone. I finally asked my mom, “Wait, so what did you actually do in the parade?” My mom smiles whenever she remembers being in it, and she continues to watch it from start to finish every year. 

She describes the day starting at 4 a.m., and one thing about my mom is that she is not a morning person, so being in the parade was clearly a huge deal! She and her siblings took the train to New York City to meet up with their groups, where my mom and three sisters were part of the “Rain and Rag Ballet: Herald Square Clowns” and her older sister and brother were part of the group that held the Snoopy and Woodstock balloon. My mom was handed her bright red costume and a big floppy bonnet, and she got her clown makeup done in a huge room with tons of other people. Then they got on a bus to take them to the upper west side by Central Park where the parade would begin. 

She remembers the excitement she had while seeing the huge crowds of people lined along the streets as they approached the parade route. There was a big wave of clowns at the start, who would commence the two and a half mile path ahead of them after they announced, “Let’s have a parade!” Although there was little direction in terms of ‘clowning,’ other than twirling a clear umbrella, my mom and her siblings agreed that it was such a big, amazing production to be a part of. 

“I remember being exhausted by the end of it”, my mom recalls as she shakes her head, wondering how she had the energy to manage such a crazy day back then. After a long morning of walking the parade and facing the crowded Long Island Railroad, they all arrived home at around one in the afternoon, just in time to start prepping for Thanksgiving dinner with her siblings and my grandmother. “It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she says proudly with a grin.

It’s so awesome seeing the photos of my family members all dressed up from that day, and I always treasure the tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my mom on Thanksgiving morning in our pajamas with a coffee, watching all of the floats, balloons, and performances together. 

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Jessica Mangels

U Mass Amherst '25

Jess is a junior Environmental Science major at UMass Amherst with a minor in Education. She is from Long Island, New York, and loves being able to catch a good sunset at the beach. She enjoys sharing her passions about sustainability, saving the planet, her favorite TV shows, and music with others.