The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Will See Some Major Changes This Year

Jake Smith
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Theo Wargo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Theo Wargo - Getty Images

From Prevention

When the United States first started locking down back in March, most of us assumed we’d be in the clear before summer, and definitely before the start of the holiday season. But here we are, months later, still waiting for the chance to return to “normal.”

Although Thanksgiving will certainly be stranger (and more distanced) this year, some of the most important traditions live on in the age of the novel coronavirus, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This November, the annual event will see some major changes—but that doesn’t mean you won’t get the chance to see those iconic floats traveling the streets of New York City.

The parade is going to look different (think smaller crowds, unusual performances, and way fewer balloon handlers). But despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still on—virtually. Here’s what to expect from the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

When is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade happening in 2020?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the 94th annual parade is still scheduled to air on Thanksgiving, just not in its usual form. “It will not be the same parade we’re used to; it will be a different kind of event,” de Blasio said. “They are reinventing the event for this moment in history.”

What’s different about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year?

Photo credit: STAN HONDA - Getty Images
Photo credit: STAN HONDA - Getty Images

According to Macy’s, the event usually draws 3.5 million spectators and more than 8,000 volunteers in New York City, on top of 50 million broadcast viewers. Obviously, a crowd that large won’t work well in the midst of flu season, when COVID-19 cases are expected to rise again, so the city is getting creative with its 2020 plans.

“This year the celebration will shift to a television-only special presentation,” Macy’s confirmed in a statement, “showcasing the Macy’s Parade’s signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, street performers, clowns, and heralding the arrival of the holiday season with the one-and-only Santa Claus.”

The usual Thanksgiving Day Parade route, which kicks off in uptown Manhattan and ends in Midtown, will be scrapped this year in favor of staging in front of the Macy’s flagship in Herald Square. The balloons will still be flown, but won’t have any human handlers. Instead, they’ll be carried by “an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles.”

Performances won’t be live this year—instead, they’ll be shot with socially distanced local talent over two days, in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Any out-of-town performers, including high school and college marching bands, will be deferred until next year. Macy’s reports that these procedures will cut down on the total number of participants by about 75%.

One beloved tradition has been entirely scrapped this year: The public will not be invited to the balloon inflation event on Wednesday night. Additionally, no participants in the parade will be under 18 years old.

Photo credit: Yana Paskova - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yana Paskova - Getty Images

How can I watch the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on NBC on Thursday, November 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. You can catch it on any device with access to a live NBC feed. If you’re located in New York City, you might still be able to witness the event in-person, although it would probably be best for everyone if you stay home and get a head start on cooking instead.

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