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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Looks Different in 2020

Sam Tracy | November 5, 2020 | Lifestyle Holiday

Watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2020

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, we're looking forward to the holiday's yearly traditions, even if they'll look a little different in 2020. Things are atypical, to say the least. We still have our turkeys ready for roasting and potatoes for mashing, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, celebrated annually in Midtown Manhattan, is adjusting to COVID-19 like the rest of us.

Traditionally, the parade's countless floats, musical performances and helium balloons attract millions of tourists and spectators alongside the millions watching at home, but for the first time in 94 years, the in-person parade route has been nixed from the lineup as Macy’s and New York City prepares a TV-only presentation.

According to a statement released by the Macy’s team, the parade route will be shortened to “avoid gathering large crowds of spectators along our traditional 2.5-mile route in New York City.” The number of staff and participants has also been greatly reduced to just 12 percent of the usual, about 960 as opposed to the standard 8,000 and 10,000 people.

The show will be pre-recorded over a two day period. All participants will be required to use face masks and additional PPE depending on their roles. Everyone must be 18 or older and live in the New York tri-state area to avoid travel from high-risk regions. Similarly, all participating marching bands will be from the tri-state region and previously selected high school and college marching band performances will be moved to next year’s parade lineup.

Some things haven’t changed, though, like the standard broadcast time from 9 a.m. till noon ET on NBC this Thursday, November 26.

The show is also star-studded as ever. Musical guests includes Dolly Parton, The Goo Goo Dolls, Bebe Rexha, Patti Labelle, Pentatonix, AJR, Karol G, and Latin boy band CNCO. Although live Broadway performances are canceled until May 2021, the best of the theatre will perform with appearances by the cast of "Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations," "Hamilton," "Jagged Little Pill," and "Mean Girls." Of course, it would not be Thanksgiving without performances by the New York Rockettes and the New York City Ballet, both scheduled to appear as always.

The annual balloon inflation celebration on Wednesday has been canceled. In years past, fans and spectators flocked to the street around the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to catch a glimpse of the floats before taking to the sky. The cancellation aims to avoid crowds. Nevertheless, the famous parade will feature balloons, floats, performances and the emergence of the one and only Santa Claus. New balloons joining the parade this year include the Boss Baby by Dreamworks Animation and Universal Pictures as well as the Red Titan from Sunlight Entertainment &'s Ryan's World. Instead of the usual 80 to 100 handlers required to hold the balloon's strings, the behemoths this year will be connected to vehicles.

Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been celebrated near the department store’s location in Herald Square of Manhattan. Originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade,” it featured donkeys and elephants. The first giant balloon, Felix the Cat, made its debut in 1927, and the Snoopy balloon made its first appearance in 1968. Originally broadcast exclusively by local channels, it became a staple of NBC television in 1952. Since then, the parade has become recognized as the kickoff event for the holiday season for many Americans tuning in on television at home, and we hope it still brings that festive spirit to you and yours.

Photography by: TIMOTHY A. CLARY