A Thanksgiving Miracle

A look at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the alumna who makes it fly

Editors note: Amy Kule '87 delivered the 2012 Ithaca College Commencement address on May 20, 2012. Watch the webcast of the ceremony by visiting

By Robin Roger

In a scene from A Miracle on 34th Street, Doris Walker retires to her glamorous apartment after planning the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and leisurely watches the event unfold below.

“It’s not true!” says Amy Kule ’87, executive producer of the parade. “I oversee a team of 150 people, and we’re all working crazy hours that are frankly unnatural.”

Putting It Together

On a day when many people have stuffed themselves with turkey and all the fixings, and are getting ready to plop themselves on the couch for a day of relaxation, all of Kule’s efforts from the past year are culminating in a day of gloriously ordered chaos.

A history major at IC, Kule started out at Macy’s as director of special events, organizing in-store programs, coordinating everything from personal appearances to fashion shows, large cooking shows, and mobile marketing campaigns.

Last year Kule took on what Macy’s considers its “jewel” events: the Fourth of July Fireworks and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before she got the job at Macy’s, she said that organizing the parade was a big mystery to her.

“As somebody just watching, you don’t think, ‘How did they do that?’” Kule says. “I didn’t think about the nuts and bolts until I got here.”

The planning process starts more than a year before each parade, and Kule is looking as far ahead as 2026, the event’s 100th anniversary.

“It’s funny, because people do believe that a few days before Thanksgiving we reach into our studio and pull out everything that should come down the parade route,” Kule says. “The process to build a balloon or float could take a few months, but the process of planning the parade takes years. Every year we look to see what can be new and different.”

Parading the Numbers

Marking the 10th anniversary of September 11, Kule performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the “children of 9/11” — children who were born after their fathers were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

There are 50 balloons in each parade. Together the balloons contain 400,000 cubic feet of helium.

Each balloon flies for a minimum of three years.

Some 850 clowns are trained by professional clowns from the Big Apple Circus at Macy’s Clown University.

Nearly 250 pounds of confetti drops on the spectators.

About 1,600 cheerleaders and 24 Rockettes take part in the parade.

Hundreds of marching bands apply, sending in footage of their best marches. A committee goes through each application. Only 10 are chosen and the bands are given two year’s notice.

The event was originally called Macy’s Christmas Parade, and each year the parade still ends with a visit from the one and only Santa Claus, which marks the beginning of the holiday season.


I attended the Ithaca College 2012 Graduation Ceremony earlier today (my niece was a doctoral candidate) and heard Amy Kule's commencement address. It was both humorous, self-effacing, and ultimately incredibly inspiring. I hope the college is able to post a YouTube video of the address as I would like my daughter, a sophomore at Ithaca (and unable to attend today's ceremony) to hear Amy's story, the path taken, what she learned, and the valuable lessons and advice that she shared with all of us -- they were truly words to live and shape your life by.

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked our commencement speaker! A video of the ceremony can be viewed at this link:

Amy Kule's speech begins at 1:30:45.

- Robin Roger
Senior Editor