Prelude to Parade Day From Shaping Youth’s Tween Reporter

parade_info_logo.jpgEver wonder what happens behind the scenes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as thousands of volunteers and intricate plans peel off into preparation groups with exacting precision?

Here’s how those giant balloons are made and how the floats are built, plus a sneak peek video of school kids visiting the prep studio in Hoboken, N.J., to preview some of the new balloons for 2007 (hey, you knew Shrek would get his green mug in there, and the pink princess Abby Cadabby was inevitable too, despite all the media controversy).

Shaping Youth Correspondent Katherine Chinn is bringing us her own ‘reality show’ live from New York, by journaling her personal experiences as a twelve-year-old representing Kirkpatrick’s in the opening dance number of Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

With a rich history floating around since the 1920s, the tradition is a high profile honor for dance troupes and bands auditioning for these performance opportunities. Katherine joins her team of 28 other Californians bringing excitement and nervous energy to midtown Manhattan where she’s eager to ‘hit the mark,’ and learn the dance routine with only one week of rehearsals!

Imagine being a tween in a massive dance number of color-coded costumes, determined not to get scrambled up on national TV…(Whew. Better ‘she than me.’ I can barely get my workout class steps down.)

As Katherine’s zinging around New York for the first time, from rehearsals to costume fittings, absorbing the landmark sights and sounds at Camp Broadway, she’s also experiencing another first…her dad, Rob is in charge.

Yep, Rob’s been the point person all week, doing the ‘drag-n-drop’ scene of shuttling Katherine to and fro along with her younger brother Matthew in tow. (That’s right moms, trust that dads are fully capable of parenting when the reins are let go…Check out the Evolution of Dad film project and blog, they even have a Facebook group which I belong to…)

Her mom, Lori Tamura-Chinn arrives today with her preschool sister Emily for a whole family fandango, so this should offer us a glimpse of New York through the eyes of children at multiple ages and stages, experiencing the city for the first time.

Some backstory for context:

Unlike my own urbanista-outdoor-sporty tween, Lori explained that Katherine’s main urban experience has been in Japan, instead of our own hometown environs in San Francisco, so she was in a bit of culture shock at first, since filing into queues to navigate massive crowds in a cohesive fashion is not exactly a New York mindset…(I used to live in Japan, so I know exactly what she’s talking about, even in chaos there’s serenity and order)

Clearly personality guides pursuits, and Katherine is passionate about dance. It’s definitely a factor in hearing what gives kids butterflies and queasies as well as joy and a sense of accomplishment, so keep in mind this is ONE reporter’s snapshot.

My daughter would be totally stressed out taking on an elaborate performance show like this in one week, yet she’s absolutely comfortable in gonzo, impromptu adventures… (preferably with a dose of the unexpected tossed in!)

Katherine, on the other hand, has always thrived in collaborative efforts like dance troupes, soccer teams, drama productions, that require group dedication and self-discipline from the get-go…And yes, they ARE indeed still friends, despite a 180 degree acumen and worldview coming from fairly similar environs…

It’s one of the reasons we hand-select our tween advisors from all over the globe to feed us their ‘slices of life’ from different perspectives, regions, race, family lifestyle, and experiential points of view.

If YOU know of someone who’d like to be a S.Y. youth correspondent, ping me in the comments section, and I’ll zap you some info…

Shaping Youth will also be looking at the media and marketing aspects of this massive event with its commercialized characters and celebrity coverage a bit later…

But for now, send us your questions for Katherine and we’ll forward them along. Good luck, Katherine, we’re all rootin’ for ya…your classmates will no doubt be tuning into watch!

A Day in the Life of a Dancer: Katherine Chinn’s journal, age 12

Journal November 16, 2007 Manhattan, New York

Camp Broadway- 6 days until the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

New York is what I call another San Francisco. When I first exited out of the airport, my first thought was that I was never going to survive in the freezing weather, especially with the harsh winds, but then, when I saw Times Square, I thought of San Francisco, and Shibuya (a city in Japan).

It’s a really cool and nice place, always swarming with people and taxis on the streets, but lots of homeless…

(Editorial note from Amy: Nov. is National Homeless Youth Awareness month; Shaping Youth will be featuring the REGeneration campaign from Virgin Mobile here soon, now back to Katherine…)

Today I went to my Camp Broadway Orientation, which was nice, they told us all about what was going to happen throughout the next week, giving us a bag with an information packet, 2 camp broadway t- shirts, and a necklace kind of thing, with our name and information in order to get into the rehearsal studio.

I’m really looking forward to starting rehearsals, especially the dancing part, because that’s what I mainly came for, and although I am a little bit worried about missing school, I am determined to have fun while rehearsing, and of course, the real parade.

Journal 11/17/07 Manhattan, New York

Today I had my very first official rehearsal, learning the song. There, we memorized the lyrics and worked on the harmonies after the voice teacher split us into 2 groups, based on whether we had an alto or soprano voice.

I found it extremely interesting, everybody that I rehearsed with seemed to be on the same page, I think the judges from Camp Broadway made sure to choose the best of the best who auditioned, so all of the rehearsals ran smoothly, and we got through the song pretty easily, even though the harmony work was harder than I thought.

I also went to Wall Street, where a lot of the stock buildings are, and the World Trade Center, learning more and more about what happened, and how the construction workers are going to rebuild it.

Tomorrow is an extremely busy day, so I’m looking forward to finally learning the dance (because that’s what I really came to New York for) and seeing other famous buildings in Manhattan.

Journal November, 18, 2007 Manhattan, New York

As I said yesterday, today was an extremely busy day. First I had a dance rehearsal, where we learned the dance and perfected the moves. I thought the dance was a little bit hard…overall, with all of the formations and weaving in and out of different color groups and people, it was complicated.

On the bright side though, towards the end we use streamers with the choreography, which is pretty cool. Next, I had a Broadway workshop, where we learned the opening song and dance to the musical Chicago, All that Jazz. We actually worked with one of the performers, which was fun, and also fun to do the dance.

After that, I went straight to a hotel where I was escorted to a ballroom, filled with costumes. I was then making my round to the different costume pieces, getting fitted for each one. Let me say, the overall costume isn’t my favorite, but I didn’t come to New York to complain about it. I am relieved that I got through all of it, even though I’m exhausted right now.

Journal 11/19/07 Manhattan, New York

Today all I had was one dance rehearsal, cleaning up the moves and combining with another color group. It was sort of confusing, and I noticed that some people were very lost and frustrated, making out dance teacher frustrated, which made the rehearsal a little bit sour.

Before that though, I had to wake up very early because I made a trip to the Empire State Building, going up to the 86th floor. It was really cool, and at that height, it was even snowing, but unfortunately, not at ground level. It was a great view, I could see as far as the Statue of Liberty. I’m glad today I didn’t have a lot of activities, so I caught up on my rest and did some of my make- up homework.

—Katherine Chinn, Shaping Youth Correspondent

Ok, so I’ve gottaluvakid that uses adjectives like “sour”…SO expressive!

Can’t wait to interview Katherine with peer to peer questions from other kids her age…

Word has it she’s already ‘gone through a revolving door’ with some star/celebrity type and the kids want to know more…(See? These are ‘kid questions’ far off my radar that I’d never think to ask in my “what was your experience like” mom mindset.)

Stay tuned for more from our “tween on the scene…”

Related Resources

Macy’s Official Parade Site (How to get in the parade/audition apps, fun-n-games etc.)

Balloon Facts & Science (An academic roundup of visual whys, hows, & major moments)

TimeOut New York’s Visitor Guide (Balloon inflation the night prior, etc.) (Full list of balloon intros by year, history, MCs, injuries/incidents, etc.)

The NYC Insider: Best spots for viewing the parade

The NYC Insider: ‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving



  1. fyi, this just in from Lori for Katherine’s school chums:

    “Katherine’s group is in the BLUE OVERALLS and they dance and sing right in the middle on the “star” in front of Macy’s Herald Square in the formation. Their group is the one that releases the white balloons at the beginning of the song/dance. Pretty hard I think to see her since they all have long hair – hers is in a ponytail along with everyone else and they are wearing painter’s hats…there is a very tall boy in her group that she is next to in the beginning.

    They’re going to perform twice in N.Y., only once will it be televised at 9:00 a.m. west coast time! They have to be careful not to run into “Meredith and Matt” when they exit! It’s wonderful out here – VERY WARM – 60’s!!!! We’re walking around wearing NO coats! We’re off to see the floats now…”

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