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Balloons and floats for the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Amy Newman)
Posted: Tuesday November 22, 2011, 1:35 PM
By MIKE KERWICK of The Record

She climbs past the pumpkins and cornstalks, venturing up a set of wooden steps. The steps overlook a frozen pond. A coat of snow circles the pond.

Amy Kule takes a seat on the top step. She gazes out at this idyllic snapshot. Except – zoom out – the setting is not a Norman Rockwell landscape, but the inside of a three-story warehouse in Moonachie.

On Thursday morning, this scene – one of five new floats scheduled to debut at the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – will travel south along Central Park West, east on 59th Street, south on Seventh Avenue, east on 42nd Street and south on Sixth Avenue until it runs into Herald Square on 34th Street.

"And it shakes," Kule says.

Kule, the executive director of the parade, has an impish grin. She starts bouncing up and down. The float cooperates, bouncing up and down with her.

"This is what happens down the parade route," Kule says. "So it’s driving, the kids are skating [on the float] and they’re shooting hockey pucks.

"It’s going to be a great parade."

It’s a parade that, for the first time in 43 years, owes some credit to a warehouse in Bergen County. In October, the employees of Macy’s Parade Studio made the 7.86-mile move, abandoning their old digs on the northern edge of Hoboken for this spacious new location in Moonachie.

"It’s a modern facility," said John Piper, the vice president and creative director of Macy’s Parade Studio. "Hoboken – we loved it. We have a lot of heart and heritage there. But it leaked like a sieve in the rain."

"We are incredibly spoiled in this new facility," Kule said. "We’ve got nothing but room, which is really quite amusing. To debut these five new floats, all inside this spacious, three-story building, is pretty incredible. And at the same time, we have full balloons inflated, which we’ve never had the ability to do before. And it still looks empty."

In this warehouse, the magic takes shape. There are 26 full-time employees at the Moonachie studio and 20 more who work for the parade and entertainment group in Manhattan.

"And on parade day," Kule said, "there [are] 10,000 people in the streets."

Each float, Kule said, starts as a sketch. The sketch turns into a 3-D model; the 3-D model, into engineering drawings; the engineering drawings, into a full-blown float.

In addition to the five new floats, this year’s parade includes two new balloons. Sonic the Hedgehog and Julius the Monkey will both take to the air for the first time. The new floats include one dedicated to the Zhu Zhu Pets and one dedicated to the Statue of Liberty. Kule said that the design work on the statue’s torch was "incredibly intricate." The untrained eye would not notice the raw materials – wood, steel, foam and paint – that turned this arm and torch into one of the most impressive members of the flotilla.

"This is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade," Kule said. "We can make anything happen. These are experts around here. There’s very little that they can’t do."

And now, for the first time in years, they have more space to chase those dreams, more room to tinker, before they send those dreams floating down the middle of Manhattan.

Navigating the scene

TV: NBC.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon.
WHERE: Parade starts on the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West and finish­es at Herald Square on 34th Street.
RESTRICTED AREAS: There will be “no public viewing … in the telecast area on Sixth Avenue from 34th Street to 38th Street and on 34th Street between Broad­way and Seventh Avenue,” according to Macy’s.
There will be “limited public viewing on the south side of 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.”
BEST SPOTS TO WATCH: Times Square, Columbus Circle and the west side of Central Park West.
INFLATION DAY: Parade of­ficials will inflate the balloons from 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at 77th Street and 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. This event is open to the public.
TRANSPORTATION: It’s not the best day to drive around the area. And if you’re not lucky enough to find a park­ing spot, the garages will gouge you. You’re probably better off relying on mass transit to get in and out of Manhattan.

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