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Parade Runner

Ex–elf wrangler keeps the Macy’s balloons flying high.

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L ast year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was great fun for just about everyone except the two sisters who were clobbered by a lamppost taken down by a wayward M&M balloon. But the parade must go on. Arianne Cohen checked in with Bob Rutan, director of operations of Macy’s annual events.

What exactly do you do?
I’m the guy calling in the parade. I say, “Charlie Brown balloon, come join the parade!”

What was your previous job?
I worked as Santaland manager, where I was in charge of not just Santa but 145 elves, teaching them elf etiquette. I was elf trainer and elf wrangler.

What’s elf etiquette?
Being happy-happy-happy elves.

What’s the biggest challenge?
The beginning and end of the season are easy, but in the middle of the season, the elves get depressed. The words [squeaking] Merry Christmas! sound like they don’t mean anything.

What happened last year with the M&M balloon?
We didn’t have our 56 feet of clear flying space. There was a lamppost in that zone. We’d brought twelve other balloons past that spot, but that balloon stopped right there.

Should we be worried this year?
No. We’re taking out all the lampposts in Times Square.

What’s the least fun part of your job?
Ordering the port-a-potties. A few parades ago, they gave us twenty in the inflation area that were locked. I had clowns who had woken up very early and drunk a lot of coffee, looking at me not too pleased. Fortunately, the NYPD had bolt cutters.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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