Macy's parade clowns

From left, Ellie Davis, Denise Martin and Jodi Davis enjoy the sights in New York City from the top of Ellie Davis' apartment building in the financial district of Manhattan ahead of their appearance as clowns in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Martin and Jodi Davis, both from Champaign, were invited to participate by Ellie Davis, who now works in New York City and has friends at Macy's.

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NEW YORK — Keep your eyes peeled for the wedding clowns in Thursday’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and you may just spot two hometown faces frolicking with the spectators.

Jodi Davis and Denise Martin were invited to perform as clowns in this year’s parade, courtesy of Davis’ daughter, Ellie, a J.P. Morgan analyst in New York City.

Ellie Davis has two friends who are Macy’s corporate employees, including one who is the parade’s volunteer coordinator. They invited her to take part and asked if she knew anyone else who might be interested.

Jodi Davis jumped at the chance and persuaded Martin to join her.

Martin has watched every Macy’s parade from start to finish since she was a kid. She and her best friend, a fellow “pom pom girl” in high school, also call each other every year whenever the Radio City Rockettes are on. She’s always dreamed of performing with the dance troupe.

“I love parades,” Martin said. “I love the Rockettes.”

Unfortunately, she’s also deathly afraid of clowns.

“She’s scared of clowns but she’s also willing to be a clown,” Davis clarified.

The two women will be in a group dressed as a clown bridal party. Martin figured that would be a little less scary.

“My son said, ‘Oh, Mom, just do it,’” Martin said.

To participate, the women had to apply and certify that they could walk 2.5 miles.

They also had to go through “Clown University,” or Clown U as it’s known in the biz.

That involved watching a set of videos about the expectations for Macy’s clowns — primarily that they should “have fun with the crowd and help make the parade come to life,” Davis said. “Our role is to interact with the spectators.”

They won’t be giving out candy but will be able to throw confetti. They can’t take photos or text during the three-hour parade, or eat or drink in their costumes.

“There’s this list of things we can’t do," Martin said. "We’re not supposed to try to get autographs with the celebrities; we’re not supposed to ham up to the camera or put up a sign that says, ‘Hi, Mom.’"

They were told to practice their bouquet-tossing skills, Davis said.

Davis and Martin have to report to the New Yorker Hotel by 5:45 a.m. Thursday to get their costumes and makeup, but they’re planning to get there around 4:30 a.m. to avoid the line.

Once they’re in position, before the parade starts, they hope to text family and friends about their place in the lineup.

Altogether, about 1,000 clowns will perform under many different themes, Davis said.

This will be their first appearance in a parade, but they’re hoping it won’t be the last.

“We want to be able to do it again next year,” Davis said.

The two women planned to fly to New York on Tuesday morning, then take in the Rockettes’ show that night. That will be a highlight for Martin, since they won’t be able to watch the Rockettes during the parade.

They’re flying back to Champaign-Urbana immediately after the parade.

The parade airs from 8 to 11 a.m. Central time on WCIA Channel 3, a CBS affiliate.


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).