The Gay Power Behind the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

11.27.2013

By Out.com Editors

Rain or shine, Amy Kule and Bill Schermerhorn will be there

Photo by M. Sharkey exclusively for Out

While you are warm and dry indoors (or lucky enough to be wet and chilly Thanksgiving day in New York City), Amy Kule and Bill Schermerhorn (both 2012 Out100 honorees), are two of the openly gay masterminds behind the big event.

As creative director for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Schermerhorn puts the “spectacle” in spectacular—including the elaborate Broadway cast and other musical performances. Now Yes, Virginia the Musical, a new adaptation of the Macy’s-sponsored animated TV special, with book and lyrics by Schermerhorn, is being targeted to elementary schools around the country. Expect to hear and see it at the next Christmas pageant you attend.The most famous parade in America has a grand marshal whose responsibilities are far weightier than merely leading the way down Fifth Avenue. As executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (as well as of the company’s Fourth of July celebrations), Kule taps more than 15 years of experience working her way through the ranks of Macy’s marketing department. Now she is the ultimate authority on everything about the big day, including which cartoon balloons rise above the crowd. (She’s also worked to incorporate the work of artists like Keith Haring and Tim Burton into the lineup.) After all the planning is done, all that’s left is making that long walk.

Kule recently spoke to the New York Times about her passion for parades and her personal preferences, and here's 10 things we learned:

1. She met Maureen O'Hara when she was 93, the actress who famously played Doris Walker, the woman who runs the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the classic 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street.

2. Kule's "never had the luxury of watching the parade outside a window, or inside" as long as she's been a part of it.

3. She enjoys eating at Restaurant Marc Forgione in Tribeca, a restaurant in her own neighborhood, steps from a building where Macy’s has executive offices.

4. Though she grew up not far from Manhattan, in Wantagh on Long Island, Ms. Kule never went to the Macy’s parade when she was a girl.

5. She hopes to revive some classic balloon characters. “The day I have Mighty Mouse back in the parade, or Felix the Cat, I’ll be very happy,” she said.

6. Felix was Macy’s first “character balloon,” in 1927.

7. She's already planning ahead to 2026 when the 100th Macy’s Parade will be held. 

8. If you want to be in the Parade, you have to get training and some Macy's executives have even gone to Clown U. to qualify.

9. Her partner was born and raised in Montana.

10. She even likes small parades, such as a Fourth of July celebration in Bridger, Mont., a town with about 700 residents, 40 miles southwest of Billings, which is tiny but "awesome."

Visit the website more information or to watch the Parade online.

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