A 2009 Triad High School graduate and Woodstock native is part of a team of volunteers that helps prepare floats for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Thomas Nance, an associate product manager in the Home department of Macy’s Merchandising Group Private Brands Division, is one of many volunteers with the company who helps coordinate the floats for the annual parade. He has been volunteering his time since he started at the company in 2013, not long after graduating from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nance said that on his first week on the job he walked in and saw Macy’s staff recruiting volunteers for the parade in the lobby of the building in New York City.
“I got swept up and became the float escort captain,” he said.
Nance has been float escort captain the past four years. The escort captains are in charge of 30-50 volunteers who walk around on the float or in front of the float – basically anyone with a costume on, he said.
In the past year, Nance has also been in charge of managing the timeline for getting the float up and running in the morning before the parade and organizing and preparing all the volunteers for that particular float. He also has been involved in putting together some “small choreography” for the float during the parade and for how the float looks for the official camera shot when the float gets to 34th Street in front of Macy’s.
“It’s about what does that tableau look like, for the float and the brand, and make sure that’s visible for the camera,” he said.
Nance will be in charge of the Build-A-Bear “Discover Adventure” float with celebrity R&B singers Chloe x Halle. He will manage 14 float escorts this year, though he’s managed up to 30 float escorts in the past.
But before the float makes it to the parade, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Nance said there are “float camp” days when volunteers get together, plan out costumes and choreography and rehearse before the big day.
This is the 90th anniversary of the parade. It began in 1924, but did not occur for two years during WWII, Nance said. Approximately 50 million people watch the parade at home and 3.5 million line Sixth and Seventh avenues in New York City to watch.
This year’s parade will have 27 floats, 28 balloons, 18 marching bands or other performance groups and some Broadway show performances, Nance said. The parade will air on NBC at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. Each float and balloon has a sponsor, but the floats and balloons are created by Macy’s, Nance said.
Each float also has its own celebrity featured. In past years, Nance has met individuals from Duck Dynasty to a Disney star from the television show “Girl Meets World.”
The parade has become quite a Nance family tradition – beyond watching it on television.
“My family comes to New York every year. My dad and brother walk with me in the parade. They get dressed up in the costumes, and Mom’s in the grandstands watching,” he said.
Nance said he got involved because he “thought it would be cool.”
Nance is also a co-leader for the company’s millennial employee resource group. The groups focus on culture and diversity for the company’s workforce. He said he spends approximately 30 percent of his time and energy as co-leader.
Nance, now age 25, said he started watching the parade when he was 4 or 5 years old, so being a part of it has been surreal.
“It’s just been a great opportunity all around,” he said of working at Macy’s and being part of the parade. “It’s such an integral part of the holidays. Just being able to participate in it and manage a portion of it has just been very meaningful and a great opportunity for me.”
For more information about the parade, visit social.macys.com/parade.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.