Hoffman's Houston
fuzzy math?

Ken Hoffman's Houston job lead for White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Ken Hoffman's Houston job lead for the White House press secretary

Kayleigh McEnany White House press secretary
Could a Houston institution use the services of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany? Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Didn’t the White House threaten to fire any Trump administration employee who applied for outside work before the 2020 presidential election is signed, sealed and officially delivered by the Electoral College — and not the media?

It sure looks like White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was sniffing for a job with the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade when she tweeted that “More than one MILLION marchers for President Trump” gathered in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. to support Trump last weekend. McEnany added, “AMAZING turnout for President Trump!”

Of course, McEnany’s claims are bigger whoppers than all the leftover candy from Halloween. One million marchers? The National Park Service issued a permit for 10,000 people to attend the rally. The maximum capacity for Freedom Plaza is 13,900, according to the park service. 

One million marchers? Not even our Thanksgiving Parade would come up with such an outrageous exaggeration … and we invented overblowing crowd size. Most media accounts played it safe and reported that “tens of thousands of Trump supporters” attended the rally. 

A little history. In 2011, parade officials claimed that 400,000 people lined the streets of downtown Houston for the Thanksgiving Parade. A year later, officials raised the ante to “more than 400,000 people.”

By the time I started covering the parade for Houston’s Leading Information Source, officials had lowered their attendance estimate to 250,000 spectators.
I asked parade officials, where’d you get the 250,000 figure? Their answer: "In the last few years, we kept hearing that more than 400,000 people were watching the parade, and we knew that couldn't be right. So we came up with a number that was about half of that. Do you think our number was wrong, too?"

Yeah, slightly.

As a hard-boiled investigative reporter, I crunched the numbers. From start to finish, the parade winds along 20 short blocks in downtown Houston. To reach 250,000 spectators, there would have to be 12,500 people on each block. On just the sidewalk, mind you. Have you seen how narrow some of the sidewalks are downtown? You couldn’t get 12,500 skinny minnies on the sidewalk of one block if they stood on each other’s shoulders, 10 people high.

Parade officials have since pulled back on their crowd boast, simply claiming “thousands of spectators.” Last year, one TV reporter said “hundreds of people” were downtown for the parade. Hey, let’s not rub their noses in it.

So what’s the real number of spectators for the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade? I asked an expert in the science of estimating crowds. He uses a formula called the Jacob’s Method — basically 2 square feet per person.

Give or take Houston’s unfair reputation of being one of the Fattest Cities in America, a reasonable estimate for the Thanksgiving Day Parade crowd is … about 15,000 people.

Not 400,000 people in downtown Houston or 1,000,000 people in Washington. They’re going to love Kayleigh McEnany at Thanksgiving Parade Houston headquarters come January 21.

By the way, just one more casualty of the COVID 19 crisis, there won’t be a Thanksgiving Parade in Houston this year.  It will be the first time the parade has been canceled in its 71-year history. Instead, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events will host the H-E-B Family Thanksgiving Distribution in the Yellow Parking Lot at NRG Park on Saturday, November 21.

The food giveaway – each grocery bag will consist of all the fixins needed to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – will begin at 8 am, one package per car, and last until all the supplies are gone, expected to be around 1:30 pm.

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