As the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat to the public, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is expected to look very different this year.
The retailer and the City of New York announced today that the annual spectacle will be modified to a television-only presentation for the first time in its more than 90-year history. With an expected viewership of upwards 50 million people, the parade is not slated to follow its traditional two-and-a-half-mile route. Instead, its production will be staged in or around the Herald Square area.
“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,” the event’s executive producer, Susan Tercero, said in a statement. “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.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio added, “New York City is always proud to join Macy’s to ring in the holiday season with New Yorkers and viewers around the world. 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.”
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For the 94th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s shared that it has put forth a “comprehensive health and wellness plan” to ensure the safety of participants and spectators. According to the company, all participants will have to adhere to social distancing guidelines during their performances and be required to wear face masks or other personal protective equipment depending on their roles. The number of participants, who must be at least 18 years old, has been reduced by roughly 75%, and the remaining participants’ performances have been split over the course of two days.
Although it will continue to feature both new and iconic giant character helium balloons, floats and street performers, Macy’s traditional “Giant Balloon Inflation” public event will not take place this year. The balloons will also be flown without their usual 80 to 100 handlers; instead, they will use an “innovative, specially rigged” framework of five vehicles, approved by the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York Police Department. What’s more, the performances of previously selected regional high school and college marching bands has been moved to next year.
“The safety of participants and spectators is Macy’s No. 1 priority,” the company added in a press release. The event will air nationwide on NBC on Thursday, Nov. 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. in all time zones.
Macy’s also modified its Fourth of July fireworks show to help protect New Yorkers from the spread of COVID-19, which has caused at least 33,000 deaths and in the city. Rather than holding its typical display on July 4, the department store chain had several 5-minute shows across the five boroughs, spread out over multiple nights.