Joining Pikachu, Paddington Bear, Dora the Explorer, and other balloons, falloons, balloonicles, and floats at the 88th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the first ever Chinese-themed float. Sponsored by the Sino-American Friendship Association (美中友好协会 / 美中友好協會, “SAFA”) and designed and constructed by the Macy’s Parade Studio, The Beauty of Beijing is an amalgamation of famous landmarks like the Forbidden City (故宫 / 故宮), the Great Wall of China (长城 / 長城), and the Temple of Heaven (天坛 / 天壇) as well as various familiar Chinese imagery like guardian lions (獅) and steep mountain landscapes. Lion dancers and flag wavers will perform on the float, and a 150-person marching band from Staten Island will be dressed in traditional Chinese clothes and will perform Chinese and American songs as it accompanies the float from the Upper West Side to Herald Square.
Getting the float in front of a live audience of 3.5 million and television audience of 50 million took nearly two years of talks with parade organizers to join, a year and a half to design the float, and about four months of construction.
China has had an indirect presence at the parade for sometime. Featuring popular cartoon characters in the parade is in part a marketing opportunity that no doubt benefits Chinese toy manufacturers, but The Beauty of Beijing brings China to the forefront to entice visitors and hopefully reverse the decline in tourism. Neil Epstein, co-chairman of SAFA said, “We’re confident that once this float is showcased at this year’s parade, it will convey a beautiful image of China, especially of the capital Beijing, to a western audience.” Referring to the fact that the SAFA’s float will be part of the world famous parade the next three years and hoping it will get people curious about China, he added, “For upcoming years, we will present different facets of Chinese culture to the American audience. This year, Chinese and Americans can celebrate this holiday together and cordially invite tourists from around the world to visit Beijing.”
We don’t expect there to be smog machines, but hopefully, this promise of “different facets of Chinese culture” in future floats includes Chinese cartoon characters and replicas Beijing’s modern architecture — but not the buildings that President Xi Jinping thinks are weird.
The parade begins at 9 AM and will be broadcast on NBC. The parade route begins at 77th and Central Park West, continues down Central Park West to Columbus Circle, where it turns on to Central Park South and then on to Avenue of the Americas, and continues down to Herald Square.
Coverage of The Beauty of Beijing begins at 1:00:
Report from Sinovision (in Chinese):
Image courtesy of Sino-American Friendship Association