LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — 5,000 volunteers, 12 marching bands, 16 giant balloons, and 28 floats later, a University of Nevada Las Vegas graduate has become a pivotal part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Entertainment and engineering go hand-in-hand with the help of Emily Black. She graduated from UNLV with a degree in entertainment engineering before working across the valley, including the Las Vegas Strip.

“I was working at a company in Las Vegas that does staging, automation, and rigging for concerts and trade shows. I was also working as an automation technician at a (Cirque de Soleil) show,” Black said during a virtual interview Wednesday morning with 8 News Now.

But, after COVID-19 struck the U.S. and effectively shut down most live entertainment, her work vanished.

“I was essentially laid off from both jobs, around the same time, within a couple of months of each other,” Black said.

But, it wasn’t for long. She told 8 News Now that a recruiter from Macy’s Parade Studio sent her a message on LinkedIn in the midst of pandemic lockdowns.

“It felt, like, so random, but also so exciting,” Black said while sitting on a parade float in New York City. “It was definitely like, ‘is this real?’ Like, after being laid off and not having any sort of prospects at all, is this really happening?”

From the west to the east, Black joined the Macy’s Parade Studio team in January 2021. She’s now in her second year as a senior engineering manager, designing some of the world’s most viewed floats.

“I help make basically all the drawings from concept to construction. We work with a big design team to see what they want to have built, and then we kind of talk with the production team and figure out how to build it. Then my team kind of takes that, models it in 3D, makes construction drawings, and works closely with the fabricators to make sure everything‘s going and being built as it should be,” Black said, with a float holding a giant golden turkey up behind her.

It’s a year-long task that comes to life Thursday morning. This year, she says she helped create the new floats entering the parade’s extensive lineup: the Wonder Bread float, Toys-R-Us float, Netflix’s Slumberland float, and, perhaps most importantly, a flying dragon float.

The importance: Her dad will be driving it down the streets of New York City this year.

“I’ve driven a lot of golf carts in Las Vegas,” Michael Black jokingly said during a virtual interview Wednesday morning when asked if he had prior experience driving parade floats. 

The father-daughter duo said Michael was promoted from balloon handler to float driver. Emily, who was responsible for staffing some of the floats with drivers, helped place him in the role when the position became available.

“Even when she did the Cats production in the fifth grade, I was proud of her. Of course, my wife and I are always finding ways to be happy and proud of her, and I think this parade will be the topping so far,” Michael said.

“Being on the west coast, I don’t think we know how big of a deal it is,” Emily said. “To be able to have my dad be at the parade, and my mom will be watching in the stands too, it’s just awesome to share that with them,” Emily said.

While the engineering manager said friends and family were not always able to see her work on the Las Vegas Strip, they and millions of other people across the nation will have the chance to Thanksgiving Day.

The parade coverage will be on 8 News Now Thursday afternoon, starting at 1:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.