A Very 80s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Macy’s 85th annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City had plenty to offer fans of 80s culture, starting with Neil Diamond singing his classic 80s hit, “America.” Diamond appeared on a float sponsored by the tourism department for South Dakota, & behind him on the float was a (much smaller) replica of Mount Rushmore. I thought he looked good, & sounded good as well! Glad to see him still able to knock out a powerful tune like that, & it was great to hear the song from “The Jazz Singer” on a frosty Thanksgiving morning in N.Y.C.

Chip Davis & his Mannheim Steamroller showed up on a float for Staples with a bunch of tap-dancing elves to promote their “Elf Yourself” website… did you recognize the “Deck The Halls” he was playing as being from one of the top five best-selling Christmas albums of all time? It was the 6x platinum, “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” released in 1984! Yet another 80s reference in the 2011 parade. (His 1988 Christmas release, A Fresh Aire Christmas, would do even better. You’ll hear tracks from both albums over the next few weeks on BlackLight Radio.)

I hesitate to bring this group up, but they DID have an 80s tie-in… this group of regular guys performing in their red jackets, powder-blue gym shorts, white sweatbands, white sport tube socks & gold tennis shoes, did a good but very funny dance routine to Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” from the soundtrack to 1984’s “Footloose.” The 610 Stompers had even the air staff on NBC chuckling as they jumped, swayed, & gyrated to the high energy tune. Bonnie Tyler remade the song in 2004, & it has was covered by Ella Mae Bowen for the remake of “Footloose.”

Although the concept was originally created in 1958, the Smurfs didn’t make it to the United States until the 80s… and kids went smurfy for the Smurfs! With a new movie out this past summer preparing to release on DVD next week, it’s not a surprise Sony Pictures saw fit to include both a small float with a couple of smurf characters AND a balloon. “Clumsy Smurf” (which struck me as a VERY dangerous name for a parade balloon!) did a great job down the parade route, and the two live-action smurfs on the float in front were entertaining as well. Even if the movie WAS in 3D, it was nice to see a giant smurf smiling down on the parade attendees.

Kermit the Frog returned this year, and it’s another no-brainer: with the new Muppet movie hitting theaters this weekend, they wanted the exposure as well. As children of the 80s, we remember Kermit singing the Rainbow Connection from the original Muppet Movie. It hit the Hot 100 in the first part of 1980… so yes, we play Kermit The Frog (voiced by Muppets creator Jim Henson) singing Rainbow Connection occasionally! (So many of us grew up watching Sesame Street & other great PBS kids shows in the 70s that Kermit brings back great memories from our childhood, too.)

The Energizer Bunny also made an appearance this year as a “balloonicle,” which is a balloon / vehicle. The balloon IS the float. The Energizer Bunny was created in 1989 qualifying him as an 80s flashback. I found out a few days ago in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” video with Grant Imahara of Mythbusters fame, that Grant was the one who built the drum-beating bunny robot in the commercials! It takes 3 people to run the Energizer Bunny robot: 1 to steer, 1 to beat the drum & twirl the sticks, & the 3rd to handle head movements. No word on how many were required to drive the balloonicle…

All in all, a great parade… and more evidence that the 80s are not only being recognized by advertisers as the best way to get us to part with our money, but also that the 80s are being re-discovered by the current generation… a reason for all of us to give thanks!!!

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