Tiptoe's Winter Guard

A retrospective

The Tiptoe Winter Guard at the 2023 

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Written by Cichele Fields - Published on November 30, 2023

The Tiptoe Winter Guard is a group of performers from all across the country who came together to perform with Macy's mascot Tiptoe the Reindeer at the 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Learn more about their journey to Herald Square!

Learn more about the Tiptoe Winterguard

Hey everyone! I'm Cichele with the team here at Ensemble Innovations. I had the pleasure of joining the Tiptoe Winterguard at the 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year to document their experience. Let's take a little behind the scenes look at the winter guard- who they are, how they got here, and what their day at the parade was like!

  • Who are they? The Tiptoe Winter Guard is a group of 40 performers representing eight states; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and California! Members applied to be a part of the team via an open casting call. The performers represent teams from the AIA, MAIN, TIA, MAC, Mid-York, and WGASC circuits, and WGI. 

  • How did they prepare? After applying, members were selected and had to commit to a series of rehearsals in the New York metropolitan area in October and November. The group got together five times, including one with Tiptoe the Reindeer and crew, to learn and rehearse their routines prior to parade week. 

  • Who is Tiptoe? Tiptoe is a character in a story created by Macy's, and has become a mascot of the holiday season. In 2021 she became the first-ever balloon puppet in the Parade's history. She is 17 feet tall and controlled by 7 puppeteers from the Phantom Limb Company, a puppeteering company based in New York City. Learn more about them here.

  • Who put the group together? The production was overseen by Rob Watson, who has previously served as the director of Fusion Winter Guard, Fusion Core, and many other programs.  The Winter Guard was choreographed by Rob Watson and Rick Delancy, alongside Tiptoe's puppeteers and the Macy's staff.

The Route

  • The parade begins at West 77th St. & Central Park West

  • There were approximately 3.5 Million spectators along the 2.5 mile route

  • The last stop is at Herald Square on 34th St. for the TV Production

Watch a recap of our trip down the parade route below! We started about ten blocks north of the official start of the parade where we waited in a staging area for our turn to join the line up. Since we were just before Santa at the very end of the parade, we waited about two hours from the beginning of the parade at 8:30am to step off!

We got to see lots of performers and floats go by, include Brandy, the Roots, and many bands and dance groups. We lined up behind the Macy's Singing Christmas Tree at about 10:30am and started our trip down Central Park West. 

The parade turns east at Columbus Circle and continues down the South side of Central Park until it reaches 6th Avenue, where the crowds were enormous! Check out the video to see the winter guard in the shadow of Radio City Music Hall and other iconic sites as they traveled down the street. The team had five different routines that they rotated throughout the parade route, in addition to their full performance in Herald Square. 

After passing some very vocal colorguard enthusiasts, we picked up our buddy Tiptoe at 37th St., and she and her crew joined us for the rest of the parade to Herald Square. When we turned on to 34th St, we entered the TV quiet zone, and had to wait in position while Cher performed with the St. John's University Dance Team. What a cool experience!

The team performed live on television and in front of the crowd at Herald Square just before Santa at the end of the parade with Tiptoe and her puppeteers. 

Watch the whole experience here!

Performer's Perspective: Meet Jalen

  • Director of Color Guard at Towson University

  • First time in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

  • Alumnus of Towson University, Fusion Winter Guard, and more

Jalen participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time this year with the Tiptoe Winterguard. He is currently the Director of Color Guards at Towson University in Maryland. He previously performed with Paint Branch High School, Towson University, Fusion World Winter Guard, Fusion Core, Emanon, and was the first recipient of the WGI Advisory Board Grant. 

Jalen described the rehearsals for the parade as great professional development experiences for him as an instructor, saying "The rehearsals I was a part of were succinct and successful. There's an etiquette expected when you are staging a production and every person was focused and locked in. It gave us so much time to just keep going back and dancing and spinning. It was refreshing to see and be a part of...I definitely took notes."

"My students and community were very excited to watch and were dazzled by the production. I'm very grateful for the opportunity."

This was Jalen's first time performing in the parade, but he hopes it's not the last. Despite juggling his own rehearsals as a director, he loved being able to participate, and the chance to have an outlet to perform again himself. He kept his participation under wraps from his students so they were surprised to learn they'd see him in Herald Square on Thanksgiving morning. 

He shared many of his favorite memories, including when the bus bringing them into the city from their rehearsal site in New Jersey crossed over the Manhattan Bridge and someone played "Welcome to New York (Taylor's Version)," seeing Brandy, Cher, and other celebrities live and in person, and even shaking hands with Flava Flav after performing in Herald Square. 

He summarized his Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade experience saying "It was a blessing to stand and spin in the sun and have fun doing it. I cannot tell you how blessed and grateful I am."

ENSMBL was proud to be the official Flag & Footwear Partner of the Tiptoe Winter Guard

We loved partnering with the Tiptoe Winter Guard design team to create some stunning vibrant flags to complement their look in Herald Square, along with custom streamers, and S-Five Performance Jazz Shoes. 

Tiptoe's custom super swing flags were dye-sublimated with their signature blue to pink and purple design with white snowflakes on our giant swing flags. These also feature a Genesis 11000 pattern. This proprietary process fuses a sparkly foil into the fabric of the flags, adding dimension and shimmer without the weight and hassle of traditional payettes. 

The streamers were dye-sublimated with a custom blue and snowflake print on iridescent lamé fabric and specially designed for this event. 

S-Five Performance Jazz Shoes were developed by choreographer Michael Rosales, along with the team at StylePLUS, specifically for the wear and tear of outdoor use. Michael envisioned a shoe with traditional dance shoe flexibility, but with reinforced seams to stand up to the elements, and additional protection in places that jazz shoes typically tear when worn on rough surfaces. The S-Five is available in a variety of colors, including light, medium, and dark skin tone colors and black. 

"Long forgotten are the painstaking hours of bedazzling, bejeweling and mylaring flags to create shimmery moments on stage. Ensemble Innovations’ unique printing technology takes away all the hassle and the sparkle is expertly embedded in the vibrant color print. In this year’s production for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, our gigantic swing flags sparkled from blocks away and looked as if they were made of lamé - but it was all in the print. Well done, Ensemble Innovations!" 

-Rob Watson, Director

Thanks to Rob Watson & the Tiptoe Winter Guard for letting me tag along this Thanksgiving! We hope you enjoyed a little behind the scenes look at the team, the route, and everything involved in making the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade a reality. 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Ensemble Innovations!

Tiptoe Winter Guard at a Glance

  • 40 Performers

  • Ages 14-36
  • 8 States

  • 5 Rehearsals

Flag & Footwear Partner for the Tiptoe Winter Guard

  • Genesis Super Swing Flags with Custom Print

  • Custom printed & designed streamers on iridescent lamé
  • S-Five Performance Jazz Shoes by StylePLUS, designed for the outdoors