Friday, November 30, 2012

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade started in 1924 with employees and professional entertainers marching from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. As has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square at the end of the parade. With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the first parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.

This year was the 86th year of the parade (the 1942, 1943 and 1944 parades were cancelled due to World War II) and followed a new route.  As in the past years, the parade started at 77th Street and Central Park West and continued to Columbus Circle turning into Central Park South.  This year, however, instead of turning to Seventh Avenue, the parade route veered onto Sixth Avenue and headed from 59th Street down to 34th Street, making its final stop at Macy's Herald Square.

The excitement started the night before the parade during the Macy's Balloon Inflation event. It's open to the public from 3pm to 10pm, I usually go after office hours so by the time I arrive the balloons have already been inflated.

Here are some of those inflated balloons, you can see the netting and sandbags over the balloons, holding them down.

This little girl is Virginia of the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" fame.

Santa resting comfortably on his rotund waist. 

A new balloon, Rex the Happy Dragon.

At the balloon inflation, each balloon has a sign with its name, picture and year of its "first flight".

This year the balloon inflation event was very crowded, just look at all the people in line waiting to see the inflated balloons.

I tried to get to the parade area early but still there were already a lot of people along 6th Avenue when I arrived an hour before the parade started. Pretty soon, you could hear people cheer, the balloons are coming! Here comes Hello Kitty on her new ride leading the pack.

I didn't have a good view of the street level of the parade so I mostly focused on taking pics of the balloons. Some of my views are somewhat blocked by the walk/don't walk sign but you can still see the balloons. Here are some of them.

Here's Kermit the Frog. He first joined the parade in 2002.

Like Kermit, Charlie Brown's first flight was also in 2002.

Pikachu can't keep up with the poke-ball. His first appearance was in 2006.

Then there's Sonic the Hedgehog, the first balloon character from a video game. He was first seen in last year's parade.

Everybody's favorite panda, Po is charming his way down the route. His first flight was in 2010.

There's also Julius, the monkey character from Paul Frank. He was first seen in 2011.

Ronald McDonald skating his way across the parade route since 2000.

Another favorite character is Spongebob Squarepants. His first flight was in 2004.

And let's not forget New York's homeboy, the amazing Spiderman.

Then there are the new balloons for this year, there's Papa Smurf, Companion by Kaws, Elf on a Shelf, the new Hello Kitty balloon as shown above and Rex the Dragon.

These guys were one of the first groups in the parade and they got lots of applause, it's the cleaning crew!

There were several bands but the one from Mexico stood out with their costume.

Lots of stars and performers on the floats, too, but I was able to take a pic of only one, Whoopi Goldberg.

Let's not forget the novelty balloons like Harold the Policeman.

Here's one of the floats, Zhu-niverse featuring the zhu-zhu pets.

And the most awaited float, the last float in the parade and carrying the big man himself, Santa's Sleigh.

Three hours of standing and watching the parade was all worth it. Here's looking at the tail end of the parade. You can see the two simple red balloons at the tail end. Yes, all we need to do is believe!

Some Macy's Thanksgiving Parade facts on this link.

For the rest of my Macy's Thanksgiving Parade pics, here's the album on Flickr.

following Sixth Avenue from Central Park South to 34th Street,

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following Sixth Avenue from Central Park South to 34th Street,

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oute following Sixth Avenue from Central Park South to 34th Street,

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oute following Sixth Avenue from Central Park South to 34th Street,

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

More Fall Foliage in Central Park

In a previous blog, I wrote about walking the length of Central Park and taking pics of the beautiful fall foliage. That walk was before hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter Athena. After those storms, I did my share of donations to the Red Cross, the Mayor's Fund and always include a NY Food Bank coupon every time I go to the grocery but I wanted to do more, so when I heard Central Park wanted some volunteers for the Family Volunteer Day, I gladly signed up. 

When I got to the Park, it seems I already got a "Thank You" when this view at the Harlem Meer greeted me.

Isn't it stunning? 

The Park's Family Volunteer Day for that time was at the Harlem Meer, at the northernmost part of the park. To get there, I took the 6 train and got off at the 110th Street station where I saw this subway art.

From the subway to the park, I passed by the Duke Ellington Circle at the corner of 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, named for the legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington.
In 1997, a 25 feet (7.6 m) tall statue by sculptor Robert Graham, depicting the Muses — nine nude caryatids — supporting a grand piano and Duke Ellington on their heads was erected in the middle of the shallow amphitheater composing the circle.

When I got to the Park, the Conservancy staff were there with the rakes and other things needed to clear the leaves from around the area. I didn't have the chance to walk around the Meer as we started with the Raking Project soon after.

We raked the leaves that fell on the edges of the park and put them in large garbage bags.  The little helpers were so serious with their tasks, it was a joy to see them help in any way they can.

The beautiful fall foliage made the work easier. After an hour or so of raking leaves, I stopped to rest and had another awesome view.

We then transferred to raking the leaves on the Fifth Avenue side of the Meer and on my way to the area, I saw a swan near the water. It was both a surprise and a pleasure to see it in the Park.

After two hours, volunteer work for the day is done. What a great exercise and at the same time you're helping the park. A win-win for all.

I had to hasten as I had a 12 pm ticket to see Tatsu Nishi's Discovering Columbus in Columbus Square 50 blocks south. On my way out of the park, I had one more awesome view of the trees in the North Woods reflected on the waters of the Harlem Meer.

Then it's up to climbing six flights of stairs to visit Christopher Columbus in his living room up high in the sky.

That room in the sky has great views of the park, too. Here's Central Park West and the colors of fall. On Thanksgiving, the balloons for the Macys Thanksgiving Parade will march along this street.

The following day I visited Central Park again this time starting at the south portion.  I entered the Park at the Artists Gate along 6th Avenue and had this view.

This is the westmost edge of The Pond and those tall trees are part of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary.  I walked along the pond edge and saw the big rock which overlooks the Fifth Avenue side of the pond.

It's that big rock on the right side of the above pic. You can see people on top of the rock. I decided to climb the rock and see what the park looks like from its vantage point.

Wow, look at all those colors! When i took a pic of the area near the Gapstow Bridge, more colors popped out. The Park's fall foliage looks gorgeous.

I stayed up the rock for many minutes just drinking in the sight before me. Finally, I decided to head down and saw more colorful fall foliage. 

Near the Gapstow Bridge, I came across this guy again. I saw him paint in this area several times in the past, I like looking at his paintings.

I walked to the other side of the bridge, the views there are as awesome as the ones from the south side.

There were a lot of skaters when I passed by the Wollman Rink. The trees around the rink were still showing off their colors.

At the rink I passed by someone sitting all by his lonesome. Sometimes it's good to sit down and reflect on the choices we've made in life and how it affects us and the people around us.

From the rink, I passed by the Central Park Dairy House, the park's first Visitors Center and it also houses a gift shop.

Sheep Meadow was closed for the season when I passed by but the trees there are also showing off their fall colors.

I kept on walking intending to end up at the Conservatory Water. Along the way by the East Drive are more fall foliage.

Finally, I arrived at the Conservatory Water. All the water has been drained out for the winter season, makes me miss the model sailboats.

On my way out, I passed by Trefoil Arch, one of the park's arches and also one of the unique ones. While its westside opening shown in the pic below is round, the other side has a three-lobe pattern.

I dropped by the Park again the weekend after I finished writing this. I just wanted to add a couple of pics I took of the Great Lawn. See how pretty it looks from Belvedere Castle.

On my way out of the park, I passed by the Great Lawn and this was my view.

Those glorious fall foliage were surely a sight to see. I hope more people could come and see it.  Autumn in New York is like no other!

For the rest of my Autumn in Central Park pics, here's the album on Flickr - Autumn in Central Park.