The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is traditionally a massive event that draws about 3.5 million to attend each year. It all began on Thanksgiving Day in 1924 when store employees dressed in vibrant costumes and marched down to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street. There were floats, live music performances, street artists, and animals that were brought in from the Central Park Zoo.
An enormous crowd of 250,000 people watched as the first Santa was crowned “King of the Kiddies” on the Macy’s balcony store entrance. Since then, the parade has continued its annual tradition, out-doing themselves every year with bigger balloons, better performances, and even more elaborately designed floats.
A Season for Change
Unfortunately, all of our traditions will be changing this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a few short months ago, Mayor Bill De Blasio publicly announced that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be cancelled for the first time since World War II. This may come as no surprise considering that New York has struggled more than any other state to shake the coronavirus plague off its back.
The city enjoyed a brief reprieve from the pandemic in October, but the amount of COVID cases began to spike again in early November. Now, state officials are discussing whether to delay reopenings and enforce stricter lockdown measures such as shutting down public schools, restaurants, and other businesses.
The Woman Who Saved the Day
After enduring months of quarantine, this news can only further dampen people’s spirits. All we want is to spend some time with our families and bask in the sentimentality of our holiday traditions. Nevertheless, we have heroes — or rather heroines — in our midst who are determined to carry on with our holiday celebrations.
Thanks to strong, innovative women like Susan Tercero, the Executive Producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we still get to watch the festivities from our TVs. That’s right, this year we will be having our first ever virtual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Reinventing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
It has taken a lot of creative thinking and hard work to plan the event while following the CDC health and safety guidelines. Due to quarantine restrictions, there will be no parade marching down the streets of Manhattan amidst a sea of cheering crowds. Instead, nearly 50 million people are expected to watch on TV or stream online. To ensure public safety, the floats and balloons will be displayed in the Herald Square area of Midtown Manhattan, instead of the usual 2.5 mile parade route.
The number of participants has also been reduced by 75%, so engineers and parade planners developed five specially anchored vehicles to replace the 80 to 100 balloon handlers they typically need. Still, we should be able to see plenty of our favorite characters floating around, like The Pillsbury Doughboy, Charlie Brown’s Snoopy, SpongeBob, the Christmas elves, and many more.
An Impressive Lineup
Performances will also be taped prior to the event. The cast of Hamilton and Mean Girls are expected to make a performance, which will undoubtedly be an exciting experience for Broadway fans who have missed out on shows due to the COVID-19 shut down. There will also be traditional performances by the Radio City Rockettes, the Big Apple Circus, the NYPD Police Band, the Sugarplum Fairy from The Nutcracker, and more. Viewers tuning in may also look forward to musical performances by Ella Mai, Jordan Sparks, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, as well as the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street.
Executive Producer Susan Tercero stated, “While it will certainly look different in execution, this year’s Macy’s Parade celebration will once again serve its historical purpose—to bring joy into the hearts of millions across the nation.”
Susan Tercero has not had an easy ride; she’s been asked to reinvent a long-standing American cultural tradition. Due to quarantine restrictions, it would not be safe to invite high school marching bands to perform their way down 34th street this year. Instead, Susan Tercero reached out to other New York-based cultural events that were cancelled this year such as the pride parade and the West Indian parade, and gave them a place on their broadcast. Now this year’s annual celebration will include much more diversity and flair!
The New and Improved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Ladies should also look forward to Olay’s debut in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The P&G skin-care brand will be celebrating women’s accomplishments in STEM fields with their first ever parade float. The scene is expected to feature a giant female astronaut in its center with double helix perimeters and a giant mechanical arm representing mathematical symbols. Such a decadent display will surely inspire young ladies to take an interest in these careers. Currently, women make up only 24% of jobs in STEM; hopefully this new float will aid in their mission to shrink the field’s broad gender gap.
This year’s celebration is not only an accomplishment for the state of New York, but also for the women who are making this event possible. As Mayor Bill De Blasio stated in a press conference in early September of this year “It will not be the same parade we’re used to. Macy’s is reinventing the event for this moment in history.” And, of course, the nation looks forward to seeing what else these visionaries have in store.
Written by Katie Jensen