Macy’s ‘reimagined’ Thanksgiving parade will use vehicles instead of people to fly its balloons

Posted On Mon, September 14, 2020 By

Posted On Mon, September 14, 2020 By In Events

Photo courtesy of Macy’s, Inc.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a New York City tradition since 1924. In modern times, the event draws a live crowd of roughly 3.5 million and is made up of 8,000 participants, including performers, marching bands, dancers, and more. But those large numbers of people mean that this year’s pandemic-era parade will look a bit different. Macy’s announced today that its 94th annual parade will be a television-only presentation with participant capacity reduced by 75 percent, a two-day staging, and balloons being flown by vehicles instead of the usual 80- to 100-person teams that corral each balloon.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has only been cancelled three times in its 96-year history. This was due to helium shortages during World War II in 1942, 1943, and 1944.

Mayor de Blasio first announced that the Thanksgiving Day Parade would likely be virtual at the end of August. “It’s not going to look at all, of course, like what we are used to. But the important thing is that traditions will be kept in some way,” he said at the time.

Macy’s and the mayor similarly reimagined the July 4th fireworks display this year. It consisted of smaller displays across the city spread out over three days.

Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, said in a statement: “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.

According to a press release from Macy’s, the health and wellness changes that will be implemented this year include:

  • Reducing the overall number of participants by approximately 75%, and splitting the remaining participants over two days
  • All participants will be appropriately socially distanced during performances and be required to wear face coverings and additional personal protective equipment depending on their role
  • Shifting to a television-broadcast-only production with staging for Parade elements focused solely in/ around the Herald Square area of Midtown Manhattan
  • The traditional 2.5-mile Parade route will not be utilized this year
  • No participant in the Parade will be under 18 years of age
  • Previously selected regional High School and College Marching Bands performances will be deferred to the 2021 Macy’s Parade, with locally based professional marching and musical ensembles taking musical duties in the lineup
  • Macy’s signature giant character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80-100 handlers and instead employ an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYCDOT and NYPD

In addition to the parade, a major spectacle is the Giant Balloon Inflation that takes place the night before on the Upper West Side. Last year, about one million people attended the event during its seven-hour window, but this year, the event will not take place.

The television broadcast will air nationwide on NBC on Thursday, November 26 from 9:00 a.m. to noon, in all time zones. The Macy’s parade typically draws about 50 million television viewers.


Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on August 21, 2020, and has been updated with new information.

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