Virtual Thanksgiving Day Parade, anchor the signature giant character balloons.

UPDATE, with additional details A signature kick-off for the holiday season – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – will go virtual this year, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today, with the department store company confirming that the event will be drastically reduced in size, abandon the traditional 2.5-mile route and employ five specialty vehicles to anchor the signature giant character balloons.

The event billed as The 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air nationwide on NBC-TV, Thursday, November 26 from 9 a.m. to noon, in all time zones.

“This year the celebration will shift to a television only special presentation,” Macy’s said 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.

Following the general announcement this morning by de Blasio, Macy’s released the following details about this year’s Thanksgiving event:

  • The overall number of participants will be reduced by approximately 75%, 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 and 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 traditional Giant Balloon Inflation public event on Wednesday will not take place;
  • 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

With large gatherings still a no-go in New York due to the coronavirus, the iconic holiday event will not be “a live parade, but something that will really give us that warmth and that great feeling we have on Thanksgiving day,” de Blasio had said. “It will not be the same parade we’re used to,. It will be a different kind of event. They’re reinventing the event for this moment in history, and you’ll be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online.”

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Macy’s worked with the City of New York to create a safety plan that aligns with CDC guidelines, as well as local and state government protocols, Macy’s said.

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“Macy’s believes in celebration and the joy of marking milestone moments with family and friends,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “The Macy’s Parade is our love letter and gift to the City of New York and the nation. 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. 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.”

The decision was not unexpected: Macy’s announced last month that the parade would be re-designed in a similar fashion to Macy’s other major New York City event, the annual Fourth of July fireworks display above the Manhattan skyline. The massive display was replaced this year by a week of smaller displays, including five-minute fireworks shows in each borough and a live grand finale on July 4th atop the Empire State Building.

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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a holiday tradition for nearly 100 years, known for the giant floating balloon characters that first appeared in 1927. For decades the event has been televised, with performances in a staging area in front of the landmark midtown Macy’s Herald Square store.

The parade has been telecast on NBC since 1953, and has become an important showcase for Broadway productions, with casts performing scenes and musical numbers on floats and at the staging area, giving the industry a rare and coveted national audience.

The parade was canceled during the World War II years of 1942, ’43 and ’44, returning in 1945. The following year’s parade was filmed for inclusion in the now-classic 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.

The Thanksgiving parade is the second big New York City holiday event impacted by COVID-19 recently: The city’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, considered the largest participatory event in the country with 50,000 costumed revelers, was canceled last week.

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