The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be happening this year, as it has every year since 1924, with a host of alterations meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The biggest difference is that the parade won’t really be a parade this year. Instead of stretching two-and-a-half miles from 77th and Central Park West to Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square, the “parade” will be staged entirely around the latter. We’ll leave it to the philosophers to ponder whether a parade that doesn’t go anywhere is really a parade at all.
The lack of marching is part of the event’s transition to a television-only production, one you won’t notice unless you were planning on watching the festivities in person, Tim Whatley style.
Another local favorite, the night-before balloon inflation ceremony, is also canceled. And speaking of the balloons, instead of the 80 to 100 handlers who typically anchor each massive floating cartoon character, “an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles” will ensure the balloons don’t get away.
The lack of human handlers is just one way organizers are cutting the total number of parade participants by 75 percent. The event will also be staged over two days, which suggests that much of what you see on NBC will be pre-taped. The folks who will participate in the parade will practice social distancing and wear masks.
Also missing from this year’s festivities will be anyone under the age of 18. That means that the high school marching bands from around the country won’t be making the trip this year (they’ve all been pushed to 2021). Instead, local professional marching and musical ensembles will take over musical duties.
It would undoubtedly be less risky to skip this year’s parade, but if one will be held these modifications are absolutely necessary. And while locals might miss some of the more provincial traditions, the vast majority of the audience, those who watch from home, will still get their yearly fix of balloons, lip-synched musical numbers, and Today Show host repartee that signals the unofficial start of the holiday season.