Learning How to Clown Around: Behind-the-Scenes at Clown U.

Clowning around is a lot tougher than it looks! That’s why our Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade clowns get a degree in it. As we gear up for the Parade, Coast to Coast steps behind the scenes at Clown U., the one-day training course for our Parade clowns. Let’s take a look at what a diploma requires in the life of a clown!

While most might get in trouble for clowning around, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade clowns have to become experts.

On the morning of October 28, Clown U. went into full session at the Big Apple Circus tent at Lincoln Center with approximately 300 Macy’s colleagues, relatives and friends who will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as clowns of all shapes and sizes.

“Clown U. gives our clowns the chance to practice their skills and really embrace the personalities of the different clown groups,” said Jenna Geniale, manager, Partnership Marketing. This is Jenna’s second year co-leading the clowns from behind-the-scenes. “I love how passionate and dedicated they are to not just being in the Parade but to making sure the experience for our fans along the route is truly special,” added Jenna. “The clowns are the heart of the Parade and the ones who get to interact with the crowds – spreading joy and excitement and a whole lot of confetti along the way!”

So what does it take for a clown to graduate?

Let’s take a look at the rigorous syllabus at Clown U. The day begins with all of the clowns reciting the top secret Clown Oath, although we got to steal a couple of lines:

“Most of all I promise to have fun and continue to wave and smile, spreading joy and tossing confetti each and every mile.”

Then it’s time for a warm-up led by the Big Apple Circus clown captains (clowning takes a lot of physical stamina)! After that, the clowns break into smaller groups where they practice the finer arts of clowning, such as how to throw confetti so it lasts the entire parade route and how to accidentally bump into other clowns. They also get a chance to role-play for their group. And the day ends with each clown group performing a skit. Then everyone graduates with an official diploma. Class dismissed. Congratulations, clowns!

We got to meet some of the clowns and hear what makes the experience special:

Rachel Donahue, Director, HR Business Partner, Corporate Communications + Legal and Pre-K Clown:

“To be able to participate in one of the country’s largest and most anticipated events is an incredible honor. What better way to be able to spread holiday cheer among the crowds and television audiences across the country than to be a clown! I am excited to bring my spirit and energy to the committed spectators on the parade route. I’m also so excited to be able to share in this momentous, once-in-a-lifetime moment with my fellow Macy’s colleagues.”

Santiago Fernandez, Senior Counsel, Labor & Employment Law and Captain of the Turkey Tech Players and Corny-Copia Clowns:

“Clown U. is special because it brings together individuals in a particular group, whom you may or may not know, and very quickly you see friendships and camaraderie develop. Also, each group has a professional clown assigned and they help the group immensely with providing skits, chants and critiquing during practice. We take a Clown Oath and have a secret clown handshake that is handed (pun intended) from clown group to clown group! I love Clown U. because it starts the official countdown and buildup to Parade morning.”

Karina Bhavnani, Product Director, American Rag Men’s and Captain of the Pre-K Clowns:

“Each year brings something new and exciting and I wait in anticipation of “where will I be placed?” as it's a great surprise! I have been an egg on a tricycle, a baker clown, turkey tech footballer, cowgirl, and now a baby! The possibilities are endless and Clown U. teaches you how to incorporate ideas that tie back to your group theme to make it fun and act out. I think it’s exciting to be a parade clown because you really get to be in the front line with the people and can connect with the crowds. To be part of something so exciting, special and magical goes back to the roots of what Macy’s is all about.”

On the actual day of the parade, there will be 28 different groups of clown families, including: Breakfast Clowns who dress up as sticks of butter, eggs and toast; Springtime Clowns who wear flower pot costumes; and Toy Block Clowns who spell out a special message on Parade day by spinning their block costumes.

Be sure to tune in to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning on NBC.


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