Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade very different this year amid COVID-19 pandemic

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade goes virtual in 2020
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade went on this year amid the coronavirus pandemic - and it was different, but well-appreciated as always.

The Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the biggest traditions nationwide, and the company had previously said the parade will be "re-imagined," similar to the way the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks were over the summer.

Instead of the traditional 2.5-mile parade route, this year it was one block, the 94th annual event centered largely around Herald Square. And instead of the 3-and-a-half million spectators that watched the parade in person last year, people were told to watch on TV.

The event ushered in the holiday season with a televised celebration featuring giant character balloons, animated floats, incredible street performances, musical acts, and the one-and-only Santa Claus -- but there was no big in-person audience.

But a few dozen people stopped by the barricade a block away to try to get a look anyway.

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In order to produce the event safely during this challenging time, the Macy's team along with its partners in the city and state of New York scaled back elements, scheduled performers, and reduced the overall number of participants.

The parade was produced in a closed TV-set format over the course of several days leading up to and including Thanksgiving to ensure the safety of participants and staff.

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"Thanks to incredible partnerships with the city and state of New York, as well as a host of agency partners and a resilient team, together we will keep America entertained safely from the comforts of home this year," said executive producer Susan Tercero in the days leading up to the event. "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."

The best of Broadway was once again be featured in the Macy's Parade, with performances from the casts of "Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations," "Hamilton," "Jagged Little Pill," and "Mean Girls."

In addition, the Radio City Rockettes brought their signature magic to Herald Square.

Also performing will be:
--All-female samba drumline Fogo Azul NYC
--Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Mermaid Queen Lynn Nottage and Dick Zigun representing the Coney Island USA Mermaid Parade
--Danza Fiesta representing the National Puerto Rican Day Parade
--The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps Band representing the NYC Pride March
--The Sugarplum Fairy from George Balanchine's The Nutcracker representing the New York City Ballet
--The FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums representing the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade
--CaribFuturism featuring a collective of acts including partners Pan in Motion, Batingua Arts, Sesame Flyers, and Kaisokah Moko Jumbies with Carnival Queen Kay Mason representing the West Indian American Day Carnival Association
--The Big Apple Circus

--The NYPD Police Band
--The West Point Marching Band and the step skills of Zeta Phi Beta.

Joining the festivities were AJR, Lauren Alaina, Ally Brooke, Sofia Carson, CNCO, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots (opening the show), Karol G, Tori Kelly, Patti LaBelle, Darlene Love, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, Matthew Morrison, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, Keke Palmer, Dolly Parton (on behalf of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store), Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha, and Brett Young.

Since 1927, when the parade's character balloons first joined the revelry, the inflatables have become a signature element featuring some of the world's most beloved characters. Over time, the inflatables have morphed from air-filled characters carried on sticks to high-flying giants, balloonheads, hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) or tandem tricycles (trycaloons).

New giants joining the line-up this year included the Boss Baby by DreamWorks Animation's "The Boss Baby: Family Business" and Red Titan from "Ryan's World" by Sunlight Entertainment and pocket.watch.

The newest balloon stars took flight without the traditional 80-100 handlers, instead employing an innovative, specially rigged anchor tether framework of five specialty vehicles field tested and approved by the relevant agencies in New York City.

Their Thanksgiving Day flights were manned by a smaller vehicle team helping to safely reduce the overall number of people needed underneath each balloon.

Also making appearances on the national broadcast were giant balloon favorites, including:
--Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide
--Diary of A Wimpy Kid by Abrams Children's Books
--Sinclair Oil's DINO
--The Elf on the Shelf
--Chase from PAW Patrol by Spin Master and Nickelodeon
--Pikachu by the Pokémon Company International
--Pillsbury Doughboy
--Ronald McDonald
--SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon
--DreamWorks Animation's Trolls

Macy's said safety is always its top priority, and robust health measures were implemented across all areas of the production including COVID-19 testing, wellness checks, required masks and social distancing practices.

In constant communication with government agency and health experts, several contingency plans were developed allowing the production the ability to adjust plans based on the evolving environment and any subsequent restrictions, to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

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