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Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade gets people excited – at least judging by some of the responses I received when I posted on social media last week that I would be walking with the Pikachu balloon.

Growing up, I often watched the parade on television. I have fond memories of a tank from Sesame Street, a vague memory of a tank with Marvel heroes and villains, and I’ve always been in awe of the Superman balloon (it turns out there had three. The last Man of Steel balloon made its last parade appearance in 1987.)

But when I was a kid, I never thought about what a production should be to be successful in a show. A year and a half ago, I started looking for a way to participate. (I first tried doing this last year, but Covid has reduced the parade length, balloons, volunteers, and spectators.)

I was brought into the ranks of balloon fitters – it almost sounds like a network of whispers, you have to know someone who knows someone – by a former colleague who had paraded several times. I told her I was interested in participating and she helped me become a volunteer on her team this year.

Credit…Idris Solomon for The New York Times

The registration process involved uploading my proof of vaccination, watching a training video on proper balloon handling care and more. I added a new sentence to my vocabulary: “handling bone”. This is the device used to hold and tow the lines that relieve the balloons along the parade route and, later, to the deflation area.

As a native New Yorker, I can’t wait to be part of such a Big Apple experience, although it will be a long day, luckily if the forecast is correct, with mild weather. I have to check in at 7:15 am and I probably won’t do it before 12:30 pm

My only worry, as a mom’s son, was being late for my family’s Thanksgiving lunch, a tradition that dates back to a time when my sister and I worked evenings at the New York Times. But I dutifully visited my mom on Wednesday afternoon, asked her to keep tabs on me on TV, and promised I would eat a lot when I arrived.

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