Magic On 34th Street: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Kicks Off The Holiday Season
The tradition continues, as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the nation’s grandest holiday spectacle returns to kick-off the holiday season from 34th Street! On Thursday, November 26, the time-honored phrase Let’s Have a Parade cued the start of a reimagined celebration that safely brought the magic of the cherished holiday tradition to television audiences nationwide. The 94th edition of Macy’s Parade featured a mix of the event’s traditional giant character balloons, animated floats, exciting street performances and marching ensembles, musical acts, whimsical clowns and the arrival of the one-and-only Santa Claus. Reinvented to safely keep spectators in New York City at home and families nationwide glued to their televisions, America’s premiere Thanksgiving holiday celebration aired on NBC and Telemundo from 9 a.m. – Noon, in all time zones.
“For nearly 100 years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has served as a milestone celebration that brings joy to millions of families nationwide and kicks off the holidays with unparalleled spectacle,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Our safely reimagined broadcast will continue that cherished tradition, as viewers nationwide celebrate together bringing a much-needed sense of normalcy to our lives.” She added, “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. 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.”
A Reimagined National Spectacle
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is annually the nation’s most anticipated holiday celebration. To safely bring the spectacle to millions of viewers nationwide during this unprecedented time, the annual production forwent marching down the traditional 2.5-mile route in Manhattan in order to avoid gathering large crowds. Instead it was reimagined over the course of several days as a television-only event leading up to the live Thanksgiving Day broadcast that featured the breadth of its signature elements. Broadcast nationally on NBC and Telemundo on Thursday, November 26, the TODAY Show’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker hosted the live three-hour telecast for NBC, with the Spanish language simulcast on Telemundo hosted by Adamari López, Jessica Carrillo, Rodner Figueroa and Nastassja Bolivar.
Celebrate And Give Back
Since its inception, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has served as a reflection of the finest of American popular culture. From the best of music to the brightest lights on Broadway and everything in between. The impact of this year’s pandemic related cancelations on some of New York City’s most beloved arts, entertainment and cultural events was a huge loss felt by both New Yorkers and visitors alike who enjoy them annually as part of New York City’s thriving and vibrant communities. To give the nation a dose of the lost magic of some of these beloved events, this year’s Macy’s Parade featured a selection of performances representing a sampling of the annual traditions that had to scale back, cancel or indefinitely postpone their events or performances.
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 show-stopping Radio City Rockettes brought their signature magic to Herald Square.
Entertaining viewers nationwide with their signature flair was a special performance from the all-female samba drumline Fogo Azul NYC along with 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; and a special performance entitled CaribeFuturism 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.
Stars On Parade
Setting the stage for entertainment on Thanksgiving Day were stars for everyone in the family to enjoy. Featuring a mix of musical genres from Pop and R & B to Country and Latin music, the Parade was the ultimate television party destination this November. Joining the festivities were Lauren Alaina, Ally Brooke, Sofia Carson, CNCO, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots (opened the show), Karol G, Tori Kelly, Patti LaBelle, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, Matthew Morrison, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, Darlene Love, Keke Palmer, Dolly Parton (on behalf of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store), Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha, AJR, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Brett Young; with an extra special appearance by the one and-only Santa Claus.
Returning for a fourth year by popular demand, a special presentation of the Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree featured the harmonious voices of 60 Macy’s colleagues who joined us from their homes across the country coming together in a golden-voiced chorus filled with the spirit of the holiday season.
Since 1928, 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 that joined 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 the City of New York. 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 are 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 by The Lumistella Company; Chase from PAW Patrol by Spin Master and Nickelodeon; Pikachu by the Pokémon Company International; Pillsbury Doughboy by Pillsbury; Ronald McDonald by McDonald's; SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon; and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls.
The televised inflatable lineup also includes Sinclair Oil’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles, as well as Hugg, Bjorn, Jojo and Fleck from Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two,” Love Flies Up to the Sky by Yayoi Kusama, Universal Orlando Resort’s The Nutcracker and Smokey Bear by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service.
The Parade’s floating stages have morphed from simple creations initially focused on nursery rhyme stories pulled by horses in the first processions to highly animated wonders that take spectators to new worlds. Conceived and crafted by the incredible artisans of Macy’s Parade Studio – a design and production facility that includes carpenters, engineers, electricians, painters, animators, balloon technicians, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic and costume designers – this year’s line-up of floats sets an unparalleled stage for entertainment. The Parade’s signature floats are marvels of creative design, engineering, and skillful construction. While they may seem to float as three stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide stages, the magic is truly in the design as these floats are built to collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel for the annual celebration.
This year four new floats debuted including Big Turkey Spectacular by Jennie-O (Bebe Rexha), Christmas in Town Square by Lifetime (Tori Kelly), Her Future Is STEM-Sational by Olay (Karol G), and Tom & Jerry’s Tourist Trap by Warner Bros. Pictures.
The returning float roster and its scheduled performers include Blue’s Clues & You! by Nickelodeon (Ally Brooke); The Brick-Changer by The LEGO Group (Goo Goo Dolls); Central Park by Delta Air Lines (New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Ashley Bouder); Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s (Sofia Carson); Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant (Brett Young); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (Pentatonix); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Lauren Alaina); Rexy in the City by COACH (Keke Palmer); Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon (CNCO); Santa’s Sleigh (Santa Claus); Splashing Safari Adventure by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions (AJR); Tom Turkey; and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Darlene Love).
A Safe Procession
Health and safety continue to be Macy’s number one priority. In partnership with local and state government, the Parade was modified to avoid gathering crowds. In addition, Macy’s put in place robust health measures across all areas of the production. In constant communication with government agency partners, several contingency plans were developed. This allowed the production to adjust plans based on the evolving environment and any subsequent restrictions, helping to ensure the health and safety of all involved.
As part of Macy’s comprehensive health and wellness plan, below is a sampling of the safety procedures and enhancements that were implemented. They included, but were not limited to, the following:
- The traditional 2.5-mile Parade route was not utilized, and the only way to view the celebration was on television.
- All participants, staff and performers were tested for COVID-19 and underwent wellness checks prior to their Parade participation
- All participants were appropriately socially distanced during staging and performances, and were required to wear face coverings; additional personal protective protocols was implemented based on the participant’s role
- The overall number of participants were reduced by approximately 88%, and split over three days
- No participant in the Parade was under 18 years of age.
- The majority of Parade participants hailed from the New York tri-state area
- Previously selected regional High School and College Marching Band performances were deferred to the 2021 Macy’s Parade, with locally based cultural and professional marching and musical ensembles taking over performance duties in the lineup
- A minute selection of elements were showcased on television from previous Parade appearances
- A selection of Macy’s signature giant character balloons were flown without the traditional 80-100 handlers and instead employ 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 traditional Giant Balloon Inflation public event in New York City, the evening before Thanksgiving, did not take place
Experience The Magic
For the fifth consecutive year, NBCUniversal and Verizon, partnered on Verizon Live: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which was streamed beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on YouTube.com/Verizon, Twitter @Verizon and select Verizon Media properties, including Yahoo.
The award-winning, Emmy-nominated production, hosted by Mario Lopez, also brought audiences across the country together through innovative and immersive experiences. For the first time ever, a Parade Portal powered by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband was accessible to viewers at home. Watching the livestream from both their 4G or 5G enabled mobile devices, viewers were transported into the center of the activity in Herald Square with 360-degree views. A QR code was available within the livestream across all platforms, where viewers could easily scan the code for a second-screen experience.
For the first time in Macy’s Parade broadcast history, in an effort to create a more inclusive experience for blind and visually impaired viewers, NBCUniversal was proud to present the full NBC broadcast with live audio description on the Secondary Audio Program channel (SAP), provided by Descriptive Video Works. This year’s broadcast was available with additional audio narration, describing the rich visuals of the Parade including the magnificent balloons, floats and performances, to complement the storytelling and celebration that make the Parade an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition for millions of Americans.
For an insider’s look at the holiday procession, fans nationwide should visit macys.com/parade for regular updates including behind-the-scenes previews, special tours, interactive historical information, educational activities, and more. Fans can also follow @macys on various social media networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.
This Thanksgiving, Macy’s safely brought millions of spectators nationwide a dazzling celebration like no other. Get ready to start the countdown in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … Let’s Have a Parade!
An Insider's Look
Macy's wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain and show you exactly what goes into putting on the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Hint: it takes a whole year!). Learn the ins and outs of the Macy's Parade Studio located in Moonachie, New Jersey, and meet the people who bring the event to life!
The Road to 34th Street
Get an inside look from Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Executive Producer, Susan Tercero, who explains how the balloon concepts go from sketch to 3D models, how the floats are engineered to travel to the Parade route and so much more. Plus, there’s tons of glitter! Check out Macy's video series to see what goes on behind the scenes.
The Macy's Parade Studio team shows how they incorporate science, technology, engineering, art & math concepts to create a magical experience for millions to enjoy!
The Balloon Team that creates the larger-than-life character balloons for the Macy's Parade shows you there is more than one way to inflate a balloon! At the amazing Macy’s Parade Studio, Matt, Brian and Tina demonstrate fun inflation experiments that you can do at home.
Learn how to build fabulous floats, like the ones in the Macy's Parade, with materials you have at home! In the amazing Carpentry Area of the spectacular Macy’s Parade Studio, experts Lenny and Brett show you how to get your float moving and create anything you can imagine.
Artists Joey and Lauryn have really fun jobs, they design the larger-than-life balloons in the Macy's Parade! In the remarkable Design Department at the incredible Macy’s Parade Studio, they will teach you the fundamentals you need to design your own gigantic balloon.
Macy's Clown U.
A school that rewards students for being the class clown? That’s Macy’s Clown U! In the 2019 Parade, clown volunteers trained with pros from The Big Apple Circus and learned the fine art of clowning around as well as fun routines to entertain the spectators along the Parade route.
Macy's Parade Gives
Since the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, it has always been a way for employees and Macy’s to give back to the community. Over the years, Macy’s has continued to create new opportunities for the Parade to give even more back.