NEW YORK (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic is transforming this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade into a television-only spectacle, New York City said on Monday, with the traditional giant character balloons pulled by vehicles rather than humans and absolutely no children allowed.
Thousands of wide-eyed onlookers who typically line city streets around the traditional 2.5-mile parade route passing Macy’s Herald Square store instead were advised to cheer the procession from their couches in front of their home television screen.
“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,” Susan Tercero, the parade’s executive producer, said in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had worked closely with Macy’s to come up with a safe and creative plan to keep the parade – a more than 90-year tradition that typically kicks off the holiday gift buying season – on schedule in the city that was once the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
To pull off a virtual parade for 50 million viewers nationwide, Macy’s announced such drastic changes as a 75 percent reduction in the overall number of clowns, dancers and other procession participants. High school and college marching bands from around the nation that won the honor of being chosen to perform instead will be deferred until the 2021 parade, with only locally based professional marching and musical ensembles in this year’s lineup.
“All participants will be appropriately socially distanced during performances and will be required to wear face coverings and additional personal protective equipment depending on their role,” Macy’s said in a statement.
“Macy’s signature giant character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80-100 handlers and instead employ an innovative specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles,” the statement said.
In the year of COVID-19, the spectacle that has been a jaw-dropping delight for children for nearly a century will prohibit participation by anyone under 18 years of age, Macy’s announced.
The event airs on NBC on Thursday, Nov. 26, from 9a.m.-noon in all time zones, Macy’s said.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler