Volunteers and Snoopy & co. protagonists on Broadway for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

photographs and text by Massimo Pacifico

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the US on the last Thursday of November (and in Canada on the second Monday in October). Officially since 1789, as a result of a proclamation of President Washington, and, in effect since 1623.
Then the “pilgrims”, which in truth were not pilgrims, but christian fundamentalists with ideas that were poorly tolerated in the England of James Ist, celebrated the first abundant harvest, obtained thanks to the decisive contribution of the natives, the Masachuset red skins (then about three thousand individuals of the tribe of the Algonquian) who had taught them to cultivate maize and breed turkeys.
The harvest of the previous year, the first on American soil, was, in fact, very thin, because the grain brought from the motherland and sowed in a “different” land had given poor results. Due to the hardships resulting from malnutrition during the first cold winter spent in overseas territory almost half of the 102 “founders” that had landed on the shores of what will be called Massachusetts died.
At Thanksgiving pioneers also invited their neighbors, the “instructors” who presented themselves at the banquet tattooed and dressed in deer skins and with a haircut like the one Robert De Niro adopted in Taxi Driver.
Their descendants, with a feeble memory, in the two centuries to come, thought about how to exterminate them. A smallpox epidemic, a gift of the Puritans, managed to get rid of half of them, however, already in 1631.
The lunch menu included turkey, pumpkin, oysters, cod, sweet potatoes, cereal cakes, cranberry juice, dried fruit and nuts. It was not too different from what Americans consume today for Thanksgiving with family gathered: a passionate togetherness that is not even claimed for Christmas. But before tackling the turkey, every good American will recite his prayer, meditate in silence for a few seconds, and then comment on the images of the most imposing of the festive parades of the new continent that NBC, with every super technology means, has broadcast live in every house that will be waving the stars and stripes: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In vogue since 1924, thanks to the voluntary contribution of the employees of Macy’s (the retail chain founded in 1858 and that today has more than 150 thousand employees) the parade takes place from Central Park to Broadway, off Columbus Circle in Manhattan, the morning (from 9 o’clock, Eastern time) on the day of the grand bouffe on which each year 40 million birds with the red wattle are euthanized. Under the skyscrapers bands, majorette groups, singers and choirs, dancers, clowns, actors and celebrities parade on foot; more in full view, on mobile stages hosted by floats, stars of the caliber of Harpo Marx, Jackie Gleason, Julie Andrews, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow and Christina Aguilera and even the very Italian Andrea Boccelli – in 2009 – would not escape the charm of direct contact with millions of spectators. There are policemen aboard the Harley Davidsons, and horsemen and women of the east and the west riding the Appaloosa, and, above all, above everything, there are the giant, flying balloons, inflated with helium representing the stars of comics and who are the biggest attraction of the parade.
Each character, a dozen meters high, is driven by ninety adepts for the cables struggling with the wind and the rain, if any, because the show must go on in all weather conditions. Only from 1942 to ’44 the parade did not take place because of the war. The rubber of the balloons and helium to inflate them were destined to the war industry.
For this year’s edition, on November 27th, there will be 10 thousand participants (12 bands) and 3 and a half million spectators along the pavements. It announces the participation of Renee Fleming, William Blake, Idina Menzel, Before You Exit, Becky G, MKTO, Needtobreathe, Sabrina Carpenter, Lucy Hale, KISS, Cole Swindell, Nick Jonas, The Madden Brothers, Quvenzhan√© Wallis, The Vamps, Meghan Trainor, Nia Sanchez, Romeo Santos, Pentatonix, and Hilary Duff.
New balloons in the guise of Pikachu are expected, of Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington Bear, Skylanders, Red Power Ranger.

The edition of 1991, which the photos of this service refer to, was Babar’s debut. I took photographs with Kodachrome 200 Professional film (5002 PKL) and an Olympus OM4 camera which mounted Zuyko objectives. It was very windy.



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