by Lexi Kupor
Public Relations Manager
After drawing over 3.5 million live spectators throughout the streets of Manhattan last November, the 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade opted for a virtual, televised event approach in true 2020 style.
The parade organizers paired down the usual 2.5 mile route to just one block in front of the Macy’s store in Herald Square. Many beloved giant balloon segments were pre-recorded from previous years’ parades, while staff reduced the number of live participants by 88 percent to allow for several balloon wranglers, float staff, and performers to attend. Participants sported obligatory face masks and other personal protective equipment after undergoing COVID-19 tests and wellness checks over the three-day period during which they recorded parade segments.
Instead of being manned by tens of handlers walking the route, many live balloons were attached to vehicles to minimize the number of volunteers required. The balloon inflation celebration, which usually attracts raucous crowds the day before the parade festivities, was cancelled this year.
Musical guests such as Bebe Rexha, Keke Palmer, and Brett Young gave live performances, while Dolly Parton appeared on the Cracker Barrel float. Further entertainment included pre-recorded segments from Broadway shows Hamilton, Ain’t Too Proud, Jagged Little Pill, and Mean Girls, whose theaters have been closed since March. Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker hosted the NBC event.
Additionally, representatives from Northeastern Indigenous communities performed a traditional song and presented a blessing and land acknowledgment, drawing attention to Native American marginalization in the United States and the movement to reclaim native lands on a day that draws attention to the history of Indigenous relations across the country.
While the Macy’s event still went on despite the circumstances, not all traditions were so lucky. This year’s parade invited representatives from other festivities that faced cancellation earlier in 2020, including the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the NYC Pride March, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
While much of the event deviated from the jostling crowds and national unity of years past, one thing remained familiar — Santa Claus arrived in front of the Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street to bring the parade to a close and declare the beginning of the holiday season, despite the uncertainty that awaits.
(Sources: CNN, New York Post, NBC New York)