Recording an Elephant Parade

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Every spring, New York City police close down 34th Street in the middle of the night for a parade — of circus elephants. That parade — and the crowd's reaction — made for a raucous moment that NPR's Robert Smith picked as his favorite sound recording of the year.


The elephants were out in force in New York earlier this year. No, we're not talking about Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson. We're talking about really ponderous pachyderms - the kind that lumbered down 34th Street in the middle of the night for a parade.

(Soundbite of noisy crowd)

LYDEN: We asked several of our reporters to take a moment this weekend to help us bring 2007 to a grand finale. They've reflected on their stories from the year and sent us their favorite soundbites. This was Robert Smith's.

Unidentified Woman: Look at his ears.

ROBERT SMITH: There they were, coming down the middle of the street - a line of elephants from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Apparently, the circus train can't make it into Manhattan so they parked it over in Queens and marched the elephants into city through the Midtown tunnel.

(Soundbite of elephants)

SMITH: And it's a truly amazing thing. It's like a presidential motorcade. It's a motorcade where it's made out of elephants, with their trunks grabbing each other's tails. There's eight elephants walking down the middle of 34th Street, and it seems that the bars have cleared out. People are coming out to take pictures, to scream and yell and to cheer for the elephants.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Unidentified Man: Go.

Mr. JOHN BALTHAZAR(ph) (Resident, Manhattan): Come on, elephants.

(Soundbite of screaming)

Mr. BALTHAZAR: I love elephants. I love elephants.

SMITH: So the guy who's probably most excited is this guy here. Come over here. You keep screaming elephants. Why do you keep screaming elephants?

Mr. BALTHAZAR: I love elephants. Who doesn't love elephants? Not a damn person doesn't love elephants, sir.

SMITH: That was John Balthazar. And my favorite quote of the entire year: Not a damn person doesn't love elephants, sir.

(Soundbite of screaming)

Mr. BALTHAZAR: Yeah. Elephants. Whoa. I wish I were on top of an elephant.

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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