BANGOR, Maine — If they pay close attention, those who tune in to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday just might catch a glimpse of some of the 20 people from the chain’s Bangor store who have signed on to serve as clowns.
The group, which consists of Macy’s employees and their invitees, will board a bus at 9 tonight for the more than eight-hour trip to New York.
Upon arrival, the group will be whisked to the New Yorker Hotel, where they will be outfitted with clown makeup and costumes before heading over to the parade’s starting point at 77th Street and Central Park West.
As soon as they have completed the more than 2.5-mile route, they will get back on the bus for the return trip to Maine. They expect to get back around 8 p.m., when those who work at the store hope to grab a few hours of sleep before reporting to work for Macy’s 5 a.m. “Black Friday” opening, according to Kelly Anderson, a member of the Bangor Macy’s store’s management team.
Anderson has been taking part in the annual parade since 2006, when the former Filene’s chain of department stores became part of the Macy’s chain.
Though they could have signed on as volunteer balloon wranglers, like their counterparts from the other Macy’s in South Portland, the Bangor group prefers serving as clowns because of the opportunity to interact with the millions of people who line the parade route, Walker said.
“We really work the crowds,” Anderson said. “It’s about seeing the smiles on children’s faces. Even the adults [along the parade route] want to give us high fives.”
Anderson, who used to go to the parade with her family as a girl growing up in Connecticut, said participating in the event has given her a deeper appreciation of what she described as “an American icon.”
“But I never knew what went on behind the scenes until I actually took part in it,” she said in a pre-parade interview at the Bangor Mall store earlier this week.
“Everyone’s so glad to see you,” added Dawn Walker, who is a customer service manager at the store and will be making her third trip to the parade.
“Even our customers are excited about it,” Anderson said, adding that the parade has been the focus of a lot of buzz in the store in recent weeks.
Making their first trip to the event are Emily Blackwell, who works at the store’s Lancome counter, and her best friend, Molly Chretien.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to go,” said Blackwell. “I’ve watched the parade on TV since I was a little girl.”
“I’ve never been to New York — and what better way to see it,” Chretien said.
This year, as was the case in 2007, the Bangor delegation will perform as sleepy clowns, complete with nightcaps and pajamas, Anderson and Walker said.
Though volunteering to be in the parade means being away from home and family on Thanksgiving Day, those who plan to make the trip say the sacrifice is worth it, including the long bus ride back and forth.
During the ride, which is paid for by Macy’s, the Bangor clowns will watch holiday movies on the bus’s television monitors. They will also enjoy turkey sandwiches and many of the traditional fixings on their return ride.
According to Anderson, the volunteers from the Bangor store are among those who travel the farthest to take part in the parade.
Now in its 83rd year, the annual parade requires more than 10,000 volunteers and is seen by more than 3.5 million spectators along the parade route as well as a nationwide television audience of more than 50 million, according to several Internet sites about the event.
Among those who will be tuning in is the Bangor store’s vice president and general manager, Ken Fraser.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Fraser said. “We’ll be watching for them on TV, cheering them on.”
In order to participate in the parade, one must be a Macy’s employee or invited by a Macy’s employee, be at least 18 years old, and be able to walk or jog the parade’s 2.65-mile route.
The Bangor group is one of two from Maine that will take part in the parade. The other group, from the Macy’s store at the Maine Mall in South Portland, will serve as balloon wranglers, Anderson said.
Televised coverage of the parade begins at 9 a.m. on NBC. For more information about the parade, visit www.macys.com and click on the Thanksgiving Day parade icon.