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What the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will look like amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a little different.
(Peter Kramer / NBC)

Broadway is back! Well, sort of.

Organizers of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have revealed that the Broadway ensembles of “Hamilton,” “Jagged Little Pill,” “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” and “Mean Girls” will perform during this year’s event as theaters across the country remain closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Theatrical performances have long been a staple of the annual New York City celebration, which will operate differently this year. Similarly to Pasadena’s New Year’s Day Rose Parade, the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been converted into a telecast that Americans will be able to watch from their homes.

“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?” said the executive producer of the parade, Susan Tercero, in an recent interview with the New York Times.

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Here’s everything you need to know about this month’s made-for-TV presentation, airing from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in all time zones Nov. 26 on NBC.

It’s going to be smaller — much smaller

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
A clown entertains the crowd during 2015’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
(Bryan R. Smith / Associated Press)

In order to ensure the safety of the talent and crew, the volume of this year’s parade participants has been reduced by about 75%. Additionally, all participants must be at least 18 years old, and “general participants” have been limited to people residing in the New York tri-state area.

Instead of the typical 2.5-mile parade route through the streets of New York City, the festivities will be filmed exclusively in and around Midtown Manhattan’s Herald Square. The preceding balloon inflation ceremony, which usually takes place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving outside Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History, has also been canceled to avoid drawing crowds.

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Performers will be masked and socially distanced

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Santa Claus waves from his float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2016.
(Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

Because they will be sharing the same physical space — as opposed to the patchwork Zoom approaches of other pandemic productions — all participants will be asked to wear face coverings and other personal protective equipment, when necessary, during performances shot in installments over a two-day period.

Groups — such as the Broadway ensembles — will also adhere to social-distancing protocols while performing. Included in this year’s star-studded Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lineup are Dolly Parton, Tori Kelly, Sofia Carson, Sebastián Yatra, Pentatonix, Patti LaBelle, Noah Cyrus, Leslie Odom Jr., Lauren Alaina, Keke Palmer, Karol G, Jordin Sparks, Jimmie Allen, Ella Mai, CNCO, Camille Schrier, Brett Young, Bebe Rexha, Ally Brooke and the New York City Ballet company.

Santa Claus will also make an appearance outside 34th Street’s flagship Macy’s store.

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Marching bands have been swapped

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Revelers makes their way down Sixth Avenue in front of Radio City Music Hall during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
(Eduardo Munoz / Associated Press)

Sets from professional marching bands, as well as other local musical groups, will take over this year for the traditional high school and college marching bands, which have been invited to join next year’s parade instead.

The 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature performances from 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.

Yes, there will be floats

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
A SpongeBob SquarePants balloon floats during Macy’s 90th Thanksgiving Day Parade.
(Alba Vigaray / EPA/Shutterstock)
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Despite the balloon-inflation getting canceled, parade floats and balloons will still play a key role in the holiday event, thanks to new technology designed to operate them without the help of the 80-100 handlers usually necessary to bring them to life.

Among this year’s giant flying attractions are Pikachu from “Pokémon,” Smokey Bear, SpongeBob SquarePants, the Nutcracker and, of course, Charlie Brown’s loyal pup, Snoopy.


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