This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will look a lot different for more reasons than just its new virtual format. Although the parade typically follows a two-and-a-half-mile route beginning at 77th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan and ends at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square, this year, the route will be limited to just a single block, marking the latest major change to hit the annual event amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As the parade marks its 94th year, the helium-filled balloons and star-studded floats will be traversing just a single block in New York City, marching down 34th Street near the flagship department store, according to The New York Times. Speaking to the outlet, the event's executive producer, Susan Tercero, said that they "still wanted to deliver what people expect on a Thanksgiving morning, but it's going to look like a parade during COVID times: We're going to have people in masks and we're going to be socially distanced."
Among the changes fans tuning in on Thanksgiving Day can expect to see is the lack of a live audience. Although the parade typically draws thousands who can be seen cheering as the balloons and floats pass by, there will be no audience this year, and the streets around the parade route will be closed to the public, preventing the opportunity for street viewing. The number of people marching along the route will also be drastically reduced. A typical year would find between 8,000 and 10,000 people working the route, though this year only about 1,500 will be involved, with all participants needing to be at least 18 years of age and from the tri-state area. In order to limit the number of people involved, the massive balloons bearing the likeness of Charlie Brown and SpongeBob Squarepants — as well as numerous other beloved cartoon characters — will be towed along the route, not by balloon handlers, but rather driven by utility vehicles.
The multiple new changes come after Macy’s hinted in August that it would "reimagine" this year's parade due to the pandemic. In September, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that "it will not be the same parade we're used to," but would rather be "a different kind of event." Acknowledging that Macy's was "reinventing the event for this moment in history," he announced that "you will be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online, not a live parade."
Although Broadway has been closed for months, those tuning into the new virtual format will still be able to see the iconic performances that accompany the parade, including performances from the casts of Hamilton, Mean Girls, Jagged Little Pill, Ain't Too Proud, and The Life and the Times of the Temptations. These performances, however, will be pre-recorded.
The 94th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on Thursday, Nov. 26 from 9 a.m. until noon in all time zones on NBC. Today reports that Macy's, NBCUniversal, and Verizon are also providing a live stream from the streets of Manhattan, which will kick off at 8:30 a.m. ET on Verizon's Twitter feed and YouTube platforms.