With the spread of the coronavirus in New York City last year, the usual fanfare of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has been pared down: the road has been reduced to a single block, the number of participants has been scaled back by several thousand people and the public has been told to stay home.
It could hardly be called a parade at all. There wasn’t so much of a rally as a series of stands on the runway for the television cameras. The broadcast was filmed over three days and edited to give the impression that the program is three hours long.
This year, with the city announcing that more than 80 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, the show is set to return with all its helium-filled pomp and trademark holiday cheer — with an asterisk: Children under 12 won’t be allowed to participate in the same show . However, they will be allowed as spectators along the two-and-a-half-mile parade route, as well as at the balloon-inflation ceremonial Wednesday afternoon around the American Museum of Natural History.
Their absence is a little strange at an event starring Pikachu, SpongeBob SquarePants and Papa Smurf. Typically, the kids would be riding on a float that looks like it’s made of Lego, or accompanying a green giant float, dressed as flowers and pumpkins.
But this year, Messi’s 95th parade wasn’t exactly typical. Macy’s announced in September that everyone who takes part in the show should be vaccinated. About three weeks before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally approved the Pfizer-BioN Tech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Watch the balloon inflate on the Upper West Side if they go with a fully vaccinated adult.
Will Coss, the event’s executive producer, said that in order to plan costumes and other logistics, the show’s organizers had to know ahead of time who would be riding on the floats.
“We had to make some decisions long before our show day to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” Koss said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get this specific group of young children.”
In past years, Koss said, this unit has typically consisted of fewer than 200 children, some as young as 7, associated with Macy’s staff and parade volunteers.
Two years ago, some of these kids waved from the back of a bejeweled, light-pink buggy pulled by a Tyrannosaurus Rex or actively danced on a buoy marked by Sour Patch Kids, while others stared shyly into the crowd. car She was performed alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This year, youngsters waving from tweens and teenage floats will be vaccinated — so viewers might expect less unadulterated delight and wondering with wide eyes — but the show’s organizers assure little change in a year when the meticulously-designed live show fanfare is back.
“This same young spirit is still a huge part of this year’s show,” said Wesley Whatley, creative producer on the show.
After last year, its ranks have mostly been restored.
About 6,500 people will work at the show, down from the average 8,000, but much more than the 960 last year. The number of giant balloons has returned to 15 and the floats to 28, roughly the same as two years ago, after a reduction last year. And the streets will be filled with 10 marching bands, many of whom were banned from traveling from their high schools and colleges scattered across the country last time.
The musicians, who were told in the spring of 2019 that they would be performing in Manhattan, are long overdue.
“We jumped and screamed and hugged each other,” said Zoe Honton, a milophone player from Frankfurt, Illinois, who was a sophomore at the time. “Then in 2020, we slowly realized that wasn’t going to be possible.”
But this week, Huntoon, now a senior, and about 200 of his bandmates will be taking charter buses on the long trip to New York City.
Whatley said that while the majority of the parade and performances will be live, a portion of the parade will be shown in advance, as is the case every year.
On Thanksgiving morning, Broadway performers will return to 34th Street to entertain the audience with songs from “Sex,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Punk.” Last year, these shows were filmed without the encouragement of the assembled fans.
The televised show, which begins at 9 a.m. on NBC, Telemundo and Peacock, will feature the Rockettes, Carrie Underwood, Mickey Guyton, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Batiste and Nelly. (Unless they’re singing, the performers have to be hidden.)
The Ballet Hispanico School of Dance, the New York City Youth Choir and a group of competitive jump ropers who will make the entire show course their playground will be among the youngest participants.
One group of volunteers in the parade is particularly dizzy about the relaxed restrictions: dealers tending balloons like the 43-foot-tall Snoopy down Sixth Avenue. Most of this work was done in the past year with the formation of multi-use vehicles.
Balloon volunteer Teresa Kruzewski took part in the show in 2008, after someone she met on the jury helped her secure the role. Kruszewski, 60, returns after missing last year’s parade, as pilot of a new airship, the title of the children’s Netflix show “Ada Twist, Scientist.” Kruszewski said she was at first worried that her vacation had left her rusty, but when she went to the Citi Field parking lot to test the balloon, her muscle memory began.
“It’s like riding a bike,” she said. “As soon as I get on the balloon and find wizards around me and the whistles are blowing, it comes back.”