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Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC pared down amid growing COVID concerns

By Michael Gartland, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — New York City's iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade has been scaled back once again over coronavirus concerns.

The parade will still be broadcast to millions of Americans on television this Thursday, but New Yorkers hoping to catch a glimpse in person, for the most part, will be out of luck.

Earlier this month, Macy's announced that many of the festivities associated with the parade, including the procession of floats and performers along Central Park West, would not take place this year to keep crowds at bay and ensure safe social distancing. That plan included relegating floats to 34th Street in front of Macy's flagship store and cutting the number of participants down to 25%.

But because the Big Apple is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases big enough to warrant the shut down of public schools, the parade had to be pared down even more.

"The plan is good. It's not exactly what we wanted it to be, but I imagine everyone has a story like that in 2020," Susan Tercero, the parade's executive producer, said Monday. "It was in the best interest of everybody to reduce our footprint."

Now, the parade is expected to run with 12% of the participants it would feature in a normal year. In prior years, anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 people — from marching bands to dancers to float handlers — are involved in putting on the show. This year, only about 960 people will take part.

That means the out-of-town high school and college marching bands selected to appear on Thanksgiving Day will sit out this year's festivities in the hopes of returning for the 2021 show. Those bands, which in a typical year flock to New York from across the country, will be replaced by locally-based professional acts.

 

Many of the sturdy souls who brave gusting winds and bone-chilling temperatures to make sure parade floats don't fly off into the clouds won't be there this year as well. Instead, some of the floats will be commandeered by a "specially rigged anchor vehicle framework," consisting of five cars approved by the city's Transportation Department.

Tercero said the parade's organizers discussed a number of other options to ensure the parade could happen amid the worst pandemic in the nation's history, but not all of them will come to pass.

One involved filming marching bands in their home towns and broadcasting the footage as part of the parade's television coverage on NBC. That became complicated, and ultimately deemed unfeasible, because many of those programs had been temporarily disbanded due to COVID-19.

Another option would have been to display floats in ballparks or parking lots, but that was scrapped in its early stages over logistical concerns, Tercero said.

"There's not as much space as you think," she said of the ballparks. The lighting in parking lots could have also become a tangled-up situation with all the ropes needed to secure the massive floating balloons.

"There's a lot of reasons why it's easier to do it where we're doing it," she said.

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