Photos show a scaled-back Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade confined to a single block in NYC due to coronavirus precautions

Michelle Mark
·4 min read
macy's thanksgiving day parade
A view of Santa Claus's sleigh float during 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2020 in New York City. Getty Images/Roy Rochlin
  • This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was unlike any other, with major coronavirus-related restrictions in place.

  • Usually, spectators turn out in droves to watch the floats and performers drive by — this year, the event was television-only.

  • Coronavirus cases across the country have been spiking, and 2,300 Americans died of the disease the day before Thanksgiving.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from going forward in New York City on Thursday, but new safety precautions made this year's event unlike any other.

Normally, the famous parade draws droves of spectators to 34th Street in Manhattan to watch the floats and performers go by.

But this year's parade placed safety first, confining the event to a television-only parade that was "reinvented to safely keep spectators in New York City at home and families nationwide glued to their televisions," according to a statement from Macy's.

Coronavirus cases across the country have been spiking, and 2,300 Americans died of the disease on Thanksgiving Eve alone.

Here's how the event unfolded.

Normally, the parade marches down a 2.5-mile route. But this year, the performers were confined to a single block. Much of the televised event had also been pre-recorded.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
Assistants carry "The Boss Baby" balloon during the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade closed to the spectators due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2020. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Authorities put police barricades in place to make sure crowds didn't form and gather too closely together.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
Police officers mount guard in front of a boarded restaurant during the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade closed to the spectators due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2020. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Not everyone stayed away — photos show a small number of casual spectators taking a peek at the event.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
A spectator wears a bubble or "Covidisor" in place of a mask during 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2020 in New York City. Getty Images/Roy Rochlin

But the atmosphere was notably muted. One spectator told The New York Times "the energy is very somber."

macy's thanksgiving day parade
The "Tom the Turkey" float as it crosses 8th Ave during the 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2020 in New York City. Getty Images/Roy Rochlin

Source: The New York Times

Normally, some 3.5 million people show up to watch the parade. But this year, the empty streets stood in stark contrast.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
The photo on the left shows crowds that attended the parade in 2019, while the photo on the right shows the empty streets during the 2020 event. Getty Images

Source: Macy's

The staff and performers were also subject to new coronavirus-related rules — each of them had to undergo COVID-19 testing and wellness checks.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
Assistants carry Yayoi Kusama's "Love Flies Up to the Sky" balloon during the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade closed to the spectators due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2020. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Source: Macy's

And while previous parades boasted some 8,000 participants, performers, and staff members, that figure was reduced by 88% this year.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
A balloon is seen during the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade closed to the spectators due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2020. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Sources: NPR, Macy's

And while Macy’s giant character balloons are usually flown with 80-100 handlers apiece, this year, the event used “an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYC Department of Transportation and the NYPD.”

macy's thanksgiving day parade
A balloon depicting Red Titan, a character from "Ryan's World", is seen during the 94th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade closed to the spectators due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2020. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Source: Macy's

The parade's executive producer said it was important to uphold the tradition of the parade — even if it wasn't its normal spectacular display. "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," Susan Tercero told the Associated Press.

macy's thanksgiving day parade
Performers pose at the 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2020 in New York City. Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's Inc.

Source: Associated Press

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