10 Long Island Ties to The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Countless Long Islanders will be among the 3.5 million Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade spectators, but the event has more connections to the Island than just being an hour-long train ride away.

Many have seen local high school marching bands and kick lines join the procession as well as our music artists performing on floats, such as homegrown hip hop trio De La Soul and singer Idina Menzel. But few people may know that there are more LI links to the parade than there are dance troupes busting moves down Sixth Avenue on Turkey Day.

Here are 10 Long Island ties to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

10) A Native Ran The Parade
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One of the many former Nassau County residents lured to New York City living, Amy Kule, of Manhattan, rose up the ranks of Macy’s and led the company’s biggest annual event from 2010 through 2016. “My mother, to this day, thinks that I took this job so I don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner,” she told The New York Times in 2013. “And she may be right.”

9) Sonic vs. SCPD
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The year was 1993. Sonic the Hedgehog, who had debuted two years prior on the Sega gaming console, was the first video game character to become a float in the parade. Unfortunately, the balloon’s first flight ended early when it snagged a lamppost at the corner of West 58th Street and Broadway, causing a street light fixture to fall on off-duty Suffolk County Police Captain Joseph Kistingeran, breaking his shoulder, according to reports at the time.

8) Parade Queen
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In 1926, when the parade was stepping off for the third time, then-21-year-old Helen Olstein was anointed “queen of the parade,” a crown she wore until the following year, when the event introduced its iconic giant balloons for the first time. Olstein, who later got married and raised a family in Woodmere, watched the parade from the sidelines 80 years later, in ’06, at age 101, the Times reported. “It was a delicious time, and we had so much fun,” she told the paper. The title has since been dropped from rotation.

7) Confetti Confidential
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In what easily ranks as one of the strangest security breaches ever at such a high-profile target for terrorists, shredded — but still legible — internal Nassau County police documents were used as confetti in 2012. WPIX-TV first reported the story, which was so ridiculous that it was picked up by national news outlets. Investigators identified the confetti culprit as one of their own who had attended the parade with family members. The case reportedly prompted new protocols for disposing documents — especially if they contained detectives’ personal information, among other sensitive details.

6) Take A Seat

For people standing for hours on sidewalks to watch the parade, the importance of this local contribution cannot be overstated. Commack-based Seating Solutions was hired to design, build, and install stadium-seating along the parade route for the select few thousand spectators lucky enough to get a seat, WNYW-TV reported. “We do everything from design to installation to custom fabrication,” company chairman Scott Suprina told the network.

5) Balloon Buzzkill
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It’s not just the spectators who are susceptible to giant balloons’ ruining their day — so are the volunteers who help guide the floating characters. Keri O’Connell of Franklin Square learned that lesson the hard way when a golf cart ran over her foot, fracturing a bone, while she was holding a line for Buzz Lightyear in 2013. “We were having the most fantastic time,” she told the New York Daily News. “Everything was wonderful. All of a sudden I was on the ground in intense pain.”

4) Top Clown
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Thankfully for the parade’s sake, the nation’s Halloween hysteria over creepy clowns terrorizing communities appears to have subsided in time for 1,000 clowns to march through Midtown without fear, just favor. The funny woman in charge of all these comical characters? Fran Nesturrick of Baldwin. At least she was in ’06, when she did interviews pulling the curtain back on the preparations involved. We reached out to Macy’s to see if she’s still commander of the clowns, but haven’t heard back.

3) Blimp Makes Touchdown

In 2015, a blimp on its way to fly over the parade made an emergency landing at a Woodward Parkway School athletic field shortly after taking off from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. Neither the pilot nor his two passengers were injured, but the incident did make for some striking images of the slow-motion crash landing. Authorities blamed the incident on high winds that day.

2) The Big Man

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Edmund Gwenn (1877-1959) as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street.
Edmund Gwenn (1877-1959) as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street.

The 1947 classic Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street is back in rotation this time of year. But only those paying close attention may have noticed that the movie’s protagonist, Kris Kringle — who Macy’s hires to play Santa in the parade before he’s institutionalized for insisting that he really is Claus — lists his address as an adult home in Great Neck.

1) Gotta Catch ‘Em All
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For several years early in the parade’s history, organizers released the giant helium-filled balloons and encouraged finders to return them to the store for a $100 reward. In 1929, three balloons reportedly landed on LI, triggering a fight over who would claim the cash. In one case, Tiger landed on the roof of a house and was torn to shreds in a tug of war, according to reports. The practice was discontinued in 1932 after a Tom-Kat balloon struck an airplane.