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Scaled-down Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes to rainy NYC streets without the excited crowds


Americans awoke on Thursday to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day transformed by the coronavirus pandemic, with abandoned New York City streets surrounding what would have been the 94th annual Macy’s parade.   

The iconic parade, usually watched in person by hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lining the streets of Manhattan and by Americans nationwide on their television screens, is this year limited to a television-only event due to the pandemic.

This year’s parade has been taped over the course of three days to be aired on NBC and Telemundo Thursday morning in an attempt to keep people at home as a result of rising coronavirus cases. 

‘That’s so that we can keep everybody at home safe,’ said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade, which NBC will air on Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon in all U.S. time zones. 

‘This year, more than ever, it’s really important that we still have something for everybody to tune into on Thanksgiving morning.’  

NYPD guarded the area on a rainy Thanksgiving morning as the third day of filming began, with quiet streets surrounding the performers where excited crowds usually gather from far and wide.  

Floats that are part of the modified Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are seen from the Empire State Building

The cast of Hamilton perform at the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning

The cast of Hamilton perform at the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning

A float prepares to film the third segment of the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning

A float prepares to film the third segment of the 94th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning 

Performers awaited minus the excited crowds as the TV-only event began on Thursday morning

Performers awaited minus the excited crowds as the TV-only event began on Thursday morning

The usually crowded Manhattan streets were abandoned on a rainy Thanksgiving morning

The usually crowded Manhattan streets were abandoned on a rainy Thanksgiving morning

The float carrying Santa Claus lined up for the finale of the televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade

The float carrying Santa Claus lined up for the finale of the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

A new balloon of Red Titan, a character from 'Ryan's World', featured in the third day of filming

A new balloon of Red Titan, a character from ‘Ryan’s World’, featured in the third day of filming

Police officers block of access to Herald Square during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning

Police officers block of access to Herald Square during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning

Empty Manhattan streets where hundreds of thousands would normally gather for the event

Empty Manhattan streets where hundreds of thousands would normally gather for the event

The ribbon is officially cut on the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The ribbon is officially cut on the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Organizers of New York City’s annual parade vowed that the show must still go on this year, planning the scaled-back, safe version of this year’s event.

In a normal year, the celebration takes between 8,000 and 10,000 people – from marching bands to float handlers to dancers – to stage the parade, which runs from West 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street and Broadway in Manhattan.

But this year just 960 performers and staffers are involved in the parade, a reduction of 86 percent.   

As well as no in-person viewing of the parade, the parade route has been slashed from its usual 2.5-mile route to just a one-block area encompassing West 34th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. 

The NYPD has positioned officers and shuttered surrounding streets to prevent crowds gathering to try and catch a peek as performers prepped for the show that will run until noon. 

The third day of filming the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off at 9am Thursday

The third day of filming the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off at 9am Thursday

The cast of Hamilton were among the performers at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The cast of Hamilton were among the performers at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

A balloon depicting Red Titan, a character from 'Ryan's World', is seen ahead of the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

A balloon depicting Red Titan, a character from ‘Ryan’s World’, is seen ahead of the 94th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Santa's sleigh will still finish up the parade, as is tradition, despite the lack of spectators

Santa’s sleigh will still finish up the parade, as is tradition, despite the lack of spectators 

Police officers block of access to Herald Square as the floats and balloons set up on Thursday morning

Police officers block of access to Herald Square as the floats and balloons set up on Thursday morning

Quiet streets surrounded the filming as people were prevented from gathering to watch

Quiet streets surrounded the filming as people were prevented from gathering to watch 

The number of handlers for the floats and balloons have been cut down this yea due to coronavirus concerns

The number of handlers for the floats and balloons have been cut down this yea due to coronavirus concerns

This year just 960 performers and staffers are involved in the parade, a reduction of 86 percent

This year just 960 performers and staffers are involved in the parade, a reduction of 86 percent

All performers and participants in this year's parade are required to wear masks, as pictured Thursday morning

All performers and participants in this year’s parade are required to wear masks, as pictured Thursday morning

Macy’s say they still expect 50million people to watch the treasured tradition from home.

‘Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,’ said Tercero. 

‘New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. 

‘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.’ 

Several measures have been put in place to ensure workers and performers are kept safe including COVID-19 testing and wellness checks before they are allowed into the parade area. 

All participants must wear masks and maintain the tri-state’s rules on quarantining and testing.  

The number of balloons and floats has been pared back with 12 instead of the usual 16 giant balloons, and 18 instead of 26 parade floats.    

That cast of Hamilton performing at the 2020 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday

That cast of Hamilton performing at the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday

On the road out the front of Macy's on 34th Street stretched out a vibrant green mural reading 'The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade' while the giant Thanksgiving turkey looked down from its perch above the entrance to the department store

On the road out the front of Macy’s on 34th Street stretched out a vibrant green mural reading ‘The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’ while the giant Thanksgiving turkey looked down from its perch above the entrance to the department store

Entertainers celebrating the famous Coney Island beach were seen waiting along the sidewalk for their turn to perform in creations ranging from a lobster suit to a mermaid sitting on top of a fish as they filmed Wednesday

Entertainers celebrating the famous Coney Island beach were seen waiting along the sidewalk for their turn to perform in creations ranging from a lobster suit to a mermaid sitting on top of a fish as they filmed Wednesday

Another performer was seen walking off the set in a huge, flamboyant green butterfly creation on Wednesday

Another performer was seen walking off the set in a huge, flamboyant green butterfly creation on Wednesday

A marching band rehearses along 34th Street during a pre-taping of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

A marching band rehearses along 34th Street during a pre-taping of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

In order to reduce the number of people needed on site, a specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles was also developed to fly the balloons instead of people. 

Both NYPD and New York City Department of Transportation have tested and approved the special vehicle.  

However, what is still going ahead promises to delight viewers tuning in on the morning of the Thanksgiving holiday from their homes. 

This year, the parade will premiere a 48-foot-tall version of The Boss Baby, the character from the 2017 film by the same name as well as a new balloon of Red Titan, a character from ‘Ryan’s World’. 

He’ll be joined by favorites Snoopy, Pikachu, Ronald McDonald, the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob and more. 

The parade’s oldest float still in use, Rocking Horse, is back again this year but will be sporting a makeover.  

There will be Broadway performances by the casts of Hamilton, Mean Girls, Jagged Little Pill, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and the Times of the Temptations – with actors and dancers returning to the stage for the first time in months

The show will also include celebrity appearances, performances by the Rockettes, and of course, Santa will arrive in front of Macy’s famed flagship store on 34th Street to kick off the holiday season as is tradition for the finale. 

The cast of Hamilton was performing at the treasured tradition for the first time this year

The cast of Hamilton was performing at the treasured tradition for the first time this year

Performers in huge headdresses and brightly colored outfits walk off the set after filming the 2020 parade Wednesday

Performers in huge headdresses and brightly colored outfits walk off the set after filming the 2020 parade Wednesday

A marching band sporting blue wigs and clothing played the drums in the street outside the flagship store

A marching band sporting blue wigs and clothing played the drums in the street outside the flagship store 

Pokémon fans are in for a treat with a troupe of dancing Pikachus deliver an ‘electrifying performance’ in the parade in addition to the iconic giant Pikachu balloon soaring among the skyscrapers of Manhattan.  

The show will include an appearance by a ballerina from the New York City Ballet who will dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker show, a holiday classic, which has been canceled entirely this season.  

The parade will also include performances by talent that was supposed to perform at the canceled St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Pride March, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. 

‘While it will may look different in execution, we invite everyone to tune in and experience our incredible celebration on television featuring our signature character balloons, dazzling animated floats, whimsical clowns, world-class performances, and of course the arrival of Santa Claus, who will once again herald the start of the holiday season,’ Tercero said.   



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