Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Friday, November 23, 2001

NEW YORK -- It was 2:45 a.m. on a chilly Thanksgiving morning. While most Americans were dreaming about turkey and pumpkin pie, Tonia Nadeau was about to board the bus bound for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

``I'm so excited I didn't even go to sleep last night,'' said the 22-year-old Clifton Park resident.

Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than two dozen Macy's employees from the Colonie and Crossgates stores joined the festivities in the city -- not as spectators, but as parade participants.

Macy's employees from throughout New England make up the characters and balloon-holders who march down the 2.5-mile parade route each year. Permission to come is granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

This year proved more difficult than in the past to recruit participants, according to Peter Jacobus, 47, merchandise manager for Macy's and a 26-year veteran of the parade.

``After Sept. 11, people expressed some concern about going down to the city,'' he said. ``(Employees) were canceling and being replaced at the last minute.''

Of the 40 slots available to Capital Region Macy's employees, only 27 decided to go this year. Usually, people are turned away.

For some regulars, even the threat of terrorism was not enough to keep them away.

``I start thinking about this day in the summer,'' said Marshall Hanson, 49, as he balanced on one foot -- in the Hotel New Yorker ballroom-turned dressing room -- trying to pull on red fancy costume pants that he said felt at least four sizes too small.

Hanson, who looked like a toy soldier, was slated to walk alongside the Santa Claus float, which is the parade's grand finale, following blocks' worth of floats, balloons, marching bands and more.

Getting dressed for the parade proved to be most difficult part of nearly everyone's day.

Hanson, like many of his colleagues, arrived at the hotel to find the outfit he was supposed to wear didn't fit.

But the Menands resident, who has marched in three other Macy's parades, made do by wearing his own pants and sucking in his stomach to button his costume.

``You always need to say you're at least a size bigger than you really are,'' advised Mary Boshea who, at 73, is the oldest of the local Macy's parade troupe.

``And make sure you go to the bathroom before the parade starts because you can't stop.''

It took years of coaxing from Jacobus to get Boshea to join him for the Thanksgiving festivities.

``I always thought `My feet aren't going to make it, and Peter (Jacobus) is going to have to carry me,' '' said Boshea, a two-year parade vet. ``But I love it and it all goes so fast.''

Nadeau had no idea just how fast the event was.

``I never knew being in the parade meant power-walking,'' said Nadeau, yanking a handful of ``very itchy'' discolored newspaper stuffing out of her gold star costume.

She then trotted off in an attempt to keep up with the rest of the characters flanking R&B performer Usher and the M&M chocolate candy float.

But Nadeau, wearing three-inch-heeled boots, decided to rest her feet by riding on the candy float for a few blocks before reaching Herald Square for her televised performance.

``I'll be back,'' Nadeau said with a flushed face. ``But next year I'm wearing my sneakers.''