Macy’s keeps their tradition alive with a digital Thanksgiving Day parade


Zach Gilbert

Thanks to the assistance and advice of the CDC and the City of New York, Macy’s has found ways to adapt their Thanksgiving Day parade around the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of PBS.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has caused many families to make last minute adjustments to their holiday plans, there is one Thanksgiving tradition they can count on no matter what: the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

With assistance and advice from the CDC and City of New York, Macy’s has produced a plan to create a shortened – but safe – filmed event that will only be available to view on television, with no in-person crowds. Due to this decision, the traditional 2.5-mile parade route will not be utilized this year.

“Staging for parade elements [will be] focused solely in/around the Herald Square area of Midtown Manhattan,” Macy’s stated in their official Parade Guidelines & Safety Rules available on their website.

Additional accommodations include reducing the overall number of parade participants by approximately 75% and splitting the remaining participants over a two-day participation period. Furthermore, all participants will be required to wear face masks at all times and remain socially distanced from one another. Extra personal protective equipment will be provided to certain participants, depending on their role in the parade.

No participants in this revised parade event will be under 18 years of age, and general participants must reside in the New York tri-state area, to limit travel from across the country. In addition, “previously selected regional high school and college marching band performances [from schools outside of New York] will be deferred to the 2021 Macy’s Parade, with locally based professional marching and musical ensembles taking musical duties in the lineup.”

In regard to the parade’s signature set pieces, Macy’s giant balloons will not be flown by the usual 80 to 100 handlers this year. Instead, Macy’s will make use of what they call a “innovative, specially-rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYCDOT (New York Department of Transportation) and NYPD (New York Police Department).” On their website, Macy’s also highlights notable balloons in the 2020 event made to resemble characters from “The Boss Baby,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Trolls.”

Aside from all of these adaptations, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will otherwise continue as it has in the past, merely as a television-only presentation.

“Our national broadcast on NBC is how the majority of the nation [already] enjoys this event annually,” Macy’s said. “Everyone can enjoy the magic of the annual spectacle by tuning in to NBC on Thanksgiving Day from 9 a.m. to noon, in all time zones.”

Some worried that the Thanksgiving Day Parade would be called off entirely, but Macy’s maintains that cancelation was never in the cards.

“Macy’s believes in celebration and the joy of marking milestone moments with family and friends,” the department store chain said. “For nearly 100 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been synonymous with the official start of the holiday season in the United States. Under the unique challenges of these unparalleled times, we felt it was important to continue this cherished American tradition that has been the opening act to the holiday season for generations of families.”