Pastor Mark P. Bruesehoff at St. John Lutheran Church in Ocean City has a higher calling on Thanksgiving Day. He and a team of other volunteers will guide the Pillsbury Dough Boy Balloon, which is about the size of a two-story building, through the streets of New York during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It is 2.8 miles of walking. You have to concentrate on what you are doing,” he said. “Once the balloon is in the air, 90 of us hold it. It takes work.”
But Pastor Bruesehoff knows his way around the giant parade that brings about three million people to the bustling streets of New York. He’s been a parade volunteer and balloon handler for 26 years.
“We’ve had cold in the past, snow and rain and wind. I’ve been doing it so long we’ve had all kinds of weather,” he noted with a laugh. “One year a huge storm came up and after that they added more handlers and four-wheel drive vehicles to weigh the balloons down. There were strong wind gusts. Fortunately, my float didn’t sustain damage, but many of the other floats did.”
It doesn’t hurt that Bruesehoff, 67, a pastor for 43 years, was born in Minnesota and grew up in Wisconsin. “The cold isn’t going to bother me,” he pointed out.
Credit: AdventuresOfAdam, YouTube video
The pastor and his wife, Diane, live in Marmora. They have four grown children. Their son, Christopher, and his wife, Jamie, of New Egypt, will join him in the parade.
Afterward, the family will go back to Christopher and Jamie’s home for a Thanksgiving dinner.
But before they can sit down to dinner, it is parade time in the Big Apple.
“I try to get a good night’s sleep the night before. I am so anxious to get there and we get up as early as we can. Normally our call time is 5:30 a.m. We are the second float this year.”
And despite having to get up at 3:30 a.m., brave the cold and travel on a holiday, Pastor Bruesehoff looks forward to it every year.
“I can’t tell you enough how it is certainly the highlight of my year,” he said, adding that his church work also is very busy, and the parade kick-starts his packed church calendar.
Pastor Bruesehoff said what he enjoys most about the parade is seeing the delight on the faces of so many people.
“The three million people who line the streets, the kids, the crowds, the yelling – it is so much fun,” he said. “The city during the parade is really the most enjoyable place to be.”
And, of course, after more than two decades of holding balloons in the parade, he has got to have a few favorites.
“I have so many,” he said. “But I would say Clifford the Big Red Dog and Garfield.”