Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Is Going to Look Very Different In 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of "normal" life in 2020 and while the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will still happen this year in New York City it, too, will be different. The annual parade -- which has taken place nearly every year since 1924 -- is undergoing some major changes this year, perhaps the biggest being that it will be an all virtual event with even the famous balloons being flown and filmed over the course of two days for the television audience.

The filming of the balloons in advance as well as the all virtual format are just two of the changes that the 94th annual event will see for 2020, but making sure the parade happened despite the pandemic is something that the parade's executive producer Susan Tercero said was important as the event brings joy to millions each year.

"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," Tercero said (via Patch.com). "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."

So, what all is changing? One of the biggest changes is the number of people involved has been reduced dramatically -- by about 75 percent. According to Sentinel Source, all participants must be at least 18 years of age and "general participants" have been limited to people residing in the New York tri-state area. That impacts quite a few aspects of the parade, including the traditional performances from high school and college marching bands which frequently travel in from other parts of the country for the event. This year, professional marching bands and other musical groups will take over those roles -- though high school and college marching bands have been invited to join next year's parade instead.

Of the bands that will perform, audiences can expect to see the West Point band, the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes & Drums, the Band of the City of New York Police Department, and the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band.

There will also be other performances as well with the Broadway ensembles of Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, Mean Girls and Aint Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations performing, giving audiences a chance to enjoy a bit of Broadway even as theaters across the country remain closed. Appropriate social distancing and other safety protocols will be used during all performances, and not just the Broadway ones. Other musical performers will also be abiding by the safety protocols when necessary for the performances.

"Why not showcase New York at a time when a lot of people have missed being able to participate and watch these types of performances and cultural displays?" Tercero said.

As for other familiar elements, the parade route itself has been deeply shortened from its traditional 2.5 mile. The 2020 procession will take place around the Herald Square Macy's flagship store on 34th street instead. And while the balloon inflation, something that usually draws major crowds for the event, has been cancelled. balloons and parade floats will still be a major part of this year's parade. Special technology has been designed to operate the iconic balloons without the numerous (think 80 to 100) handlers required. Balloons this year include Pikachu, SpongeBob SquarePants, Snoopy, and more.

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Despite all of the changes, however, there is one thing that will remain the same: despite not appearing in stores during the holiday season, Santa Claus will make his appearance this year as well, just outside the 34th street flagship store.

The 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will air from 9a.m. to 12p.m. in all time zones on Thursday, November 26th on NBC.