The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebration is still happening this year. But, like pretty much every other tradition and institution that has continued in 2020, it will look and feel a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Nov. 26, on NBC. While the festivities have historically drawn massive crowds to the streets of Manhattan — there were about 3.5 million in-person spectators along the 2.5-mile parade route in 2019 — this year all activity will be focused on the Herald Square area of Midtown, and the only way to watch will be on television.
For New Yorkers who typically see it live and in person, this change for them is that they are going to experience it the same way the rest of the country experiences it, said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But I think for the rest of country, it’s not going to be too different.
They’re still going to see the balloons. They’re still going to see the floats. They’re still going to see Santa and Broadway and all of these elements that they’re used to seeing every single year. They’re still going to see those things. They might have some differences in that we’re going to see some social distancing. We’re going to have masks, things like that. But it’s still going to be the parade they know and love.
Behind the scenes, parade organizers will be taking plenty of safety precautions, Tercero said. The 2019 parade had between 8,000 and 10,000 participants including performers, staff and balloon handlers. The workforce this year will be cut by around 70% to less than 2,000 people who will film segments over two days — with some segments filmed Wednesday, Nov. 25, and the majority of the action airing live on Thanksgiving.
There will be staggered call times, social distancing on site, masks and wellness checks, with the production following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Additionally, no parade participants this year will be younger than 18, and previously-selected high school and college marching bands will perform in 2021 while locally-based professional marching and musical ensembles will be heard this year, according to a news release.
While Macy’s has been known for nearly a century for bringing folks together in New York City around the holidays, Tercero explained why the parade had to continue in one fashion or another during this most trying year.
Our events are all about giving back to people, celebrating traditions, celebrating American history and American holidays, she said. And it was really important, we thought, not just for Macy’s, but then when we look at the city of New York that has gone through so much and been so resilient and has come out of so many things but has also had to see a lot events and a lot of thing canceled, we felt we had an obligation to New York.