Dec 4, 2019
Life O’ The Party!
A business that adds excitement and celebration at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with its balloons
Mark Zettler, president of Life O’ The Party, LLC – a retailer located in Hackensack, New Jersey that specializes in balloons, decor and party entertainment for any occasion – reached out to Party & Halloween Retailer and shared not only some images of his work behind-the-scenes at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but also some great insight into the experience of being involved in this event. Life O’ The Party has been involved in the parade for 16 consecutive years, and it is still an event that is enjoyed by Zettler and his staff.
So much preparation for the parade goes unnoticed by participants and spectators, but hopefully this information provides a glimpse of what it was like for Life O’ The Party staff as they took part in this event. All photos courtesy of Life O’ The Party.
What is the role you and your business play in the annual Macy’s parade?
MZ: I am the main contact for Macy’s Special Events Department for the event. Our company supplies balloons (mostly helium filled) for a number of Macy’s events for about a month leading up to the parade. Sales, volunteer training events for the parade, holiday events, promotions etc. are all part of the mix of events we are part of.
What was the set-up experience like for you?
MZ: The main event,” which is working on the parade route starts with preparation several months out. We custom imprint thousands of 11-inch latex balloons for the month’s worth of events. The real work starts at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving.
We inflate balloons in our warehouse, load several 24-foot trucks and then go to three designated areas of the parade. We begin unloading at the starting line, located at West 77th Street in New York City, by the American Museum of Natural History – that’s where the parade begins. We put 18-inch latex balloons in bunches up there. The balloons are used at the start of the parade with performers carrying them.
Then we place bunches of 11-inch imprinted balloons along the parade route on Central Park West at the top of temporary bleachers that are setup for many blocks. These are used in the morning by performers who take them off the bleachers and distribute them to the crowd.
The final phase (of preparation) is that a small team goes downtown to Macy’s Herald Square, their flagship store, and decorates Stella Restaurant inside the store for a VIP event that takes place during the parade.
The parade route group finished this year at about 3:30 a.m. and we were back at the warehouse a little after 4 a.m. THEN, it was time to make a large arch for a Turkey Trot and centerpieces for a Bar Mitzvah that both had to be delivered by 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning! No rest for the weary!! The second, smaller team finished up at Stella and were back to our warehouse at about 6:30 a.m.
What are the most exciting parts of being part of this annual event?
MZ: Being part of any world-class event like this is always exciting and helps us market our business as one that can handle large and important events. Getting to walk with my staff down the parade route and at the starting line; being part of and seeing all the preparations while all of “you” sleep is fun – cold, but fun! And this year it was very windy, too.
Having it all come together is exciting and when it is over to just take a minute to think “We did it again!” is very gratifying. It really gives me a thrill when our company is able to not only satisfy our clients and bring happiness to so many at all kinds of events, but also give our staff the opportunity to experience these world-class events in a way we would all never be able to be a part of if it wasn’t for our balloons.
Our company has been very fortunate to be an integral part of so many world-class events that have been truly unique experiences for our staff. Our loyal clients have given us permission to be part of things like movie sets (You’ve Got Mail, Spiderman 3, Ransom, World Trade Center), TV (HBO’s The Deuce, Food TV’s Food Network Star, BET shows), sporting events (NY Giants playoff games, The World Cup in New Jersey and Massachusetts), nationwide events for Bob’s Discount Furniture stores (all 120 stores at one time!), Petco (over 1,400 store openings), Five Below (over 400 store openings); and even at The White House.
Getting home (this year at about 7:30 a.m.) to watch the event on TV and seeing our balloons popping up in all sorts of places along the parade route is one great experience.
Do you have a favorite balloon Life O’ The Party showcased at one of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades?
MZ: Years ago we were tasked by Macy’s Special Events Department to create a custom shaped foil balloon of their Elf mascot for the parade. With the help of Betallic and (at that time) their affiliate in France, we were able to create 5,000 beautiful two-sided, jumbo Elf foil balloons we used throughout that year’s events, including hundreds of these balloons being sent to stores all over the U.S. for store promotions. I was very proud to be able to make this happen from start to finish. The quality of the balloons was very high and that is with our thanks to Betallic and their international team. Together, we made Macy’s look very good that year.
Do you plan to be part of the event next year, and if so, do you have any ideas on what you will do differently?
MZ: Well, we are always hopeful, but we will not know anything until next year, as it really is a year-by-year proposition. I would like to think our experience and extremely detailed preparations and executions for these events each year has made us (I hope!) an invaluable company to work with for this important national event.
For more information on Life O’ The Party, visit www.lotparty.com.
Videos of Life O’ The Party
Mark Zettler shared some video during the experience via Facebook Live. Click the links to Life O’ The Party’s videos to see the staff’s experience.
Walking along Central Park West: https://www.facebook.com/LifeOTheParty/videos/487064175488127/
Inside one of Life O’ The Party warehouses around 10:30 p.m. as preparations and inflation had begun: