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09/14/2020

Macy’s to ‘reimagine’ Thanksgiving Day parade — without crowds

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Macy’s is going forward with its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City – but it will be different than in past years due to the pandemic.

For the first time in its 93-year history, the annual parade will be a television-only event.  The number of participants in the parade, which typically attracts in-person crowds of nearly 3.5 million, 50-plus million television viewers and runs with the help of some 8,000 volunteers, will be reduced by about 75%. 

The parade will not follow its usual 2.5-mile route, which starts on the city’s Upper West Side near Central Park and winds its way down to end at the front door of Macy’s Herald Square flagship. Instead, all the performances and other elements of the parade, from clowns to floats, will be focused solely in and around the Herald Square area and filmed for television over a two-day period.

Macy’s signature — and giant — character balloon, arguably the most popular part of the parade, will still fly – but without the traditional 80 to 100 handlers per balloon. The balloons will fly with the help of a specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the New York City Department of Transportation and the NYPD. 

“New York City is always proud to join Macy's to ring in the holiday season with New Yorkers and viewers around the world,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’ve worked closely with the Macy’s team on a safe and creative plan this year, and we look forward to keeping this tradition going on Thanksgiving Day.”

In retooling the annual parade to accommodate the pandemic, Macy’s is looking to duplicate the success of its reimagined July 4 fireworks show, which was redesigned as a series of five-minute unannounced displays in every borough of New York City.  

"Following our successful, safe and innovative production of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, it is our intention to similarly reimagine Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this November," the retail giant said in a statement.

Other changes in this year parade are below:
• The regional high school and college marching bands that were chosen to perform in this year’s parade will be be deferred to Macy’s 2021 parade,  with locally-based professional marching and musical ensembles taking care of musical duties in this year’s lineup.
• Macy’s traditional – and very popular – event where specators can watch the giant balloons be inflated will not take place. (The event takes place on the city’s Upper West Side, the night before the parade.)
• No participant in the parade will be under 18 years of age.   

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was held in 1924. NBC has televised it since 1953. 

“The Macy’s Parade is our love letter and gift to the City of New York and the nation,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Under the unique challenges of these unparalleled times, we felt it was important to continue this cherished holiday tradition that has been the opening act to the holiday season for generations of families. While it will certainly look different in execution, this year’s Macy’s Parade celebration will once again serve its historical purpose – to bring joy into the hearts of millions across the nation.”