12 December 2015
Yes, most of you know me as mind-mannered (well, maybe not so mild) Dr. Maryann Buetti-Sgouros, dedicated pediatrician in the Mahopac office of Westchester Health Pediatrics who loves taking care of each and every one of my patients. But did you know I have an alter ego? Every year I’m a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Whether it’s wrangling Buzz Lightyear, Snoopy or a Rug Rat, there I am, braving wind, cold, sometimes even sleet and snow, loving every minute of it. But how, you may ask, did all this begin?
My journey to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
I have always been the quintessential New Yorker, getting involved with the best that New York has to offer. Some highlights: One semester in college, I attended every single Broadway show listed in the Playbill. Every year growing up, I celebrated Fleet Week. This September, I stood in Central Park for hours to see Pope Francis.
Naturally, the balloon inflation the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was an annual rite, as well as attending the parade the next day. And every year, I wished I could be in the parade on Thanksgiving morning.
After years of telling people my wish, I actually was put in contact with a person who casts clowns for the parade. I applied, and became a clown! (No big surprise, right, patients?)
After 2 years of clowning around, I was asked if I would like to be a balloon handler, and I’ve been one ever since (7 years now).
Highlights of being in the parade
- Shouting out to the children NYC police (NY’s finest) along the parade route. There are so many police officers throughout the route who are keeping the parade safe and their families often stand out in the cold the entire morning waiting for the parade to pass.
- I also do a special shout out to my daughter and her friends who are often on the route and to the families of the friends that I have made through the years who are out there waiting and cheering.
- My patients are well aware of my participation in the parade and often call the parade office to ask which balloon I am handling. There was one year when, unbeknownst to me, there were 5 different families at different points along the route shouting “Dr Buetti” as I walked by. It was hilarious…my co-handlers though I was a celebrity or something. Priceless!
- Seeing the preparation of the parade before it starts. There is nothing like walking along Central Park West at 7am on Thanksgiving morning, feeling the excitement in the air, seeing the balloons under their nets, hearing the marching bands warming up, watching the different groups practicing their performances and trying to stay warm prior to the parade’s start.
- Being a participant in one of the most finely orchestrated events in New York. I always think back to the movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” with Mrs. Walker trying to get the parade organized along the parade route. Well, in reality, there are a large number of “Mrs. Walkers” who get the parade on its way and mobilized down to the minute. There is nothing like hearing the organizers tell your group over the loudspeakers: “You may now join the line of march.” The excitement is electric!
- Thanksgiving dinner tastes a million times better after being up since 4:30 in the morning and participating in the greatest parade in the world!
This year I handled the Thomas the Tank Engine balloon. Next year, who knows?
If you’ve never been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I urge you to do it next year!
It’s truly a magical event, full of dancers, singers, clowns, celebrities (in the parade and all along the route), floats, high school marching bands from all around this great country, police officers on horses, sanitation workers following said horses, cheering crowds, newscasters, TV cameras and of course, giant balloons!
If you have been to the parade, you know how great it is, so make plans to attend next year!
Either way, keep your eyes peeled for me. Which balloon will I be with? To find out, you’ll have to come to the parade!