We knew that the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade would not be the same this year due to the ongoing pandemic and the dangers of mass gatherings. But as with this year's Macy's Fourth Of July fireworks displays, there is still going to be a celebration happening on Thursday which you can see on television—and some people have already got a glimpse of the surreal scene in person.
"It will be different, it will be smaller, it will be made for TV," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference on Wednesday. "It is not a spectator event in person. We're letting people know it's going to be a very limited area and we're not asking people to show up and of course there will be plenty of measures to make sure there are no crowds. But you will be able to see it on television, it will be exciting, there will be floats and balloons."
As for how the city will dissuade people from showing up in person, he added, "It's happening over the course of about a block, it's a very limited area, it's quite easy for the NYPD to segment it off."
Calling this year's pivot "a great representation of New York City," the mayor said it will include some of the other parades the city wasn't able to have this year, including performers from the West Indian Day, the Puerto Rican Day, St. Patrick’s Day, NYC Pride, and Coney Island USA Mermaid parades. There will also be performances from the cast of Hamilton and other Broadway musicals; and "a very important visitor from the North Pole at the end of the parade."
Macy's has also revealed details about what to expect at the parade, which has happened every year since 1924, except for three years during World War II. The main takeaways are that everything is being radically pared down to minimize the number of people who have to be there in person to operate everything, and that much of the parade has and will be pre-filmed before Thursday.
Instead of the usual 2.5 mile parade route, the whole thing will be taking place around Macy's flagship store in Herald Square. Around noon on Wednesday, The West Point Marching Band was spotted performing on 34th Street, which was blocked off between 6th and 8th Avenues.
Despite the city's efforts to discourage people from gathering there tomorrow, some people did come out today to see what was happening.
"We're obsessed with Thanksgiving, and obviously being New Yorkers and not being able to have [regular] traditions this year, we decided to make our new traditions of 2020 and come and experience what they were doing today," said Curtis Brown, who was there with his partner Travis Whisler.
The two said they usually come out to see the floats get inflated every year. "We're trying to create memories because we can't be with our families this year and we want to enjoy what New York is offering," Brown added. "The fact we were able to stand on the Rockettes mat and be able to do a little kick line was probably the coolest thing that ever happened, because that never gets to happen."
Mark Murphy said he was a little sad to see so few people out today, but that is a good thing "because everyone is keeping socially distant and wearing masks and doing what they can to enjoy the holiday." He said he usually spends the day before the parade "watching them get blown up on the Upper West Side, so I thought I'd come down and actually get a little feel for the day before the big event."
"I think it's great the organization is still doing so much to keep the tradition going, even though it's very modified," Murphy added. "It's great they want to keep it safe and healthy but still bring a lot of joy during a holiday in which we're making a lot of sacrifices for."
Macy's says the overall number of participants in this year's parade has been reduced by about 88%. No one under 18 will be included this year out of safety and health concerns, so that means no high school or college marching bands as well.
Instead of 2,000+ balloon handlers, there will only be around 130 coordinators on site. There'll be 12 giant balloons instead of the usual 16, and 18 floats instead of the usual 26. As organizers explained to the NY Times, there are typically 80 to 100 uniformed handlers for each of the large balloons. Instead, there will only be about 25 humans assigned to each one this year, and they'll be either walking or riding in squat utility vehicles, which will help guide the balloons.
“Every year we have two parades: There’s the one for New Yorkers who line the parade along the streets, and we knew that couldn’t happen, we couldn’t march from uptown to downtown,” executive producer Susan Tercero told Variety. “The other parade is the one that happens on television for 50 million people. We knew that was going to be our safest way of moving forward.”
To that end, there will be a mix of live and pre-taped material, and it won't always be obvious which is which. In terms of the musical performances, which Macy's describes as a "mix of musical genres from Pop and R&B to Country and Latin music," Jimmy Fallon and the Roots are scheduled to open the show. Other performers include Lauren Alaina, Ally Brooke, Sofia Carson, CNCO, Karol G, Tori Kelly, Patti LaBelle, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, Matthew Morrison, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, Leslie Odom Jr., Keke Palmer, Dolly Parton, Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha, Jordin Sparks, Sebastián Yatra, and Brett Young.
In addition to the cast of Hamilton, there will also be performances from the casts of Ain’t Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations, Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, and Mean Girls. About 18 of the 80 Radio City Rockettes will be performing, and the New York City Ballet's principal dancer Ashley Bouder will be performing the Sugar Plum Fairy number from "The Nutcracker."
The 94th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on NBC on November 26th from 9 a.m. to noon EST (it's also streaming online at Verizon's YouTube and Twitter accounts). You can get more info on that—and a list of all the balloons that will appear—here.