Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to March On Despite Pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) -

The annual New York City parade will march on with balloons and floats, albeit heavily edited for safety.

“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”

The Macy’s parade has been a traditional yearend season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year’s parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it’s a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.

The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favor of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.

Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show’s strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”

The traditional giant character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.

Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were canceled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic.

“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”