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Meet the Small Businesses Behind the Big Parade

New York City will host the 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this month. Here's a look at some of the companies that help keep the festivities marching along.
Fringe Fest: Artists at the Macy's studio assemble a float for Sprout, the preschool cable channel set to make its Thanksgiving Day parade debut this year.
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Dressing Up the Parade (with Fringe)

Macy's opened its first parade studio in a defunct Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1968. In 2011, the studio was moved to a 72,000-square-foot facility in Moonachie, New Jersey, where a team of 25 artists, carpenters, painters, designers, woodworkers, and metalworkers toils year round, assembling floats, props, and other elements of the Thanksgiving Day parade. Pictured here at the studio are three artists applying fringe supplied by Decorative Novelty of Brooklyn, New York, to the Sprout float, one of 29 in the parade this year. Decorative Novelty has provided the parade's float fringe for more than two decades, cutting strips from large rolls of raw vinyl and topping them with a cotton border. Monte Seewald founded the business in 1936 and sold it to current CEO Robert Notine and president Leonard Feldman in 1978. Today, the $1 million company has 15 full-time employees, in addition to seasonal workers, and manufactures artificial décor, including wreaths, garlands, and Christmas trees, for use as in-store decorations by retailers in the U.S. and Canada. It also produces a variety of wholesale party supplies, including ribbon, confetti, and oversize martini glasses.

Cue the Music!

Producing loud and clear sound along the two-mile parade route--which winds from Central Park West and 77th Street to Macy's flagship Herald Square store on 34th Street and Broadway--is no easy feat. Macy's entrusts the task to Sound Associates of Yonkers, New York. The day before the parade, the company sets up nearly 100 speakers at the parade's starting and ending points, along with microphones used for public announcements, live performances, and live feeds to and from the NBC television broadcast. On the big day, the company handles all aspects of the parade's sound production as two employees in golf carts drive along the route, turning on, testing, troubleshooting, and repairing equipment. Vaudeville stagehand Thomas Fitzgerald founded Sound Associates in 1946. He went on to create one of the first electronic mixing boards to incorporate sliding faders for controlling stage lights. His sons, T. Richard and Peter, now run the $20 million business, which has 75 employees and has provided sound systems to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and more than 30 current theatrical productions, including The Lion King and Jersey Boys.

So the Macy's Marching Band Looks as Good as It Sounds

Since 2006, Macy's has selected roughly 250 high school students from around the country to perform in its Great American Marching Band on Thanksgiving Day. Band Hall of Nashville outfits the musicians and flag bearers in woven polyester jackets and pants, as well as coordinating shoes, gloves, and plumed hats called shakos. The company also supplies the band's auxiliary dancers with Lycra costumes, flags, and banners. Former high school band director Keith Hall founded Band Hall in 1997 to offer a one-stop shop for uniforms and accessories. Today, it manufactures custom uniforms, flags, and banners for high schools and universities in the United States, England, the Netherlands, and Japan. It also distributes a variety of accessories made by other companies, including shoes, gloves, headgear, and decorative sabers.

Keeping Giant Balloons in Check

This year's parade is set to feature 47 balloons, many of which are light enough to be controlled solely by groups of volunteers holding ropes. The parade's 15 giant fliers, including Kermit the Frog and Buzz Lightyear, are also anchored by utility vehicles. In 2003, Macy's hired Lockwood Boat Works of South Amboy, New Jersey, to create a pulley system--consisting of yacht-braid rope and winches anchored in the vehicles--that allows balloons to be raised and lowered safely. Lockwood continues to supply the winches and rope, the latter of which is ideal for balloon wrangling because of its durability and lack of stretch. William Lockwood Sr. and his wife, Mary, founded Lockwood Boat Works in 1946, initially selling boats, motors, and trailers. Today, the company operates a 28-acre, full-service marina, where it has a boat-supply shop and repairs and stores as many as 300 boats in the winter months. William Lockwood Jr. owns and runs the 35-person company with his nine siblings.




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