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How to Watch This Year’s Virtual Event

For the first time in more than 75 years, there will not be a parade of balloons and crowds of crowds on the streets of New York City this Thanksgiving Day. The annual parade sponsored by Macy’s – which typically starts the Christmas season – is not canceled. But the event will look different in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about how Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is changing this year and when you can tune in to see the festivities.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade happens, but without the crowds

Astronaut Snoopy balloon
Astronaut Snoopy Balloon at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2019 | Ralph Bavaro / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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Every year, millions of people line the streets of Manhattan to watch the parade with giant balloons and marching bands. But the pandemic has put kibosh on events with large crowds. So parade organizers have become creative.

Instead of taking place over the usual 2-mile parade route, this year everything will happen in front of Macy’s flagship Herald Square store, according to a FAQ on Macy’s website. Social distancing, limited staff and staggered call times will be in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Mask is required for all participants. Other changes include the use of professional musicians instead of high school and college marching bands that normally perform. And instead of the balloon handlers who usually keep characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants flying away, there will be special vehicles that hold the giant inflatable dinghy in place.

Macy’s parade will still air on NBC on Thanksgiving morning

Macy's parade turkey floats
Tom Turkey floats at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2019 | Ralph Bavaro / NBC

One thing that will not be different at this year’s parade is when it’s airing. You can still set the Thanksgiving morning to watch the fun on NBC. The event starts at 9 ET Thursday 26 November and runs until kl. 12 ET.

For viewers at home, things may not look so different this year, as the TV show usually broadcasts performances from in front of the Herald Square store. Most of what you see on TV will be live, though a few segments will be taped on Wednesday, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Why not just cancel the parade?

Crowds at macy's 2019 Thanksgiving Parade
Crowds at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2019 | EuropaNewswire / Gado / Getty Images

Given the changes required to end a safe event, some people may wonder why organizers did not just cancel this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade. But according to Macy’s, they felt it was more important than ever to hold a parade this year.

Macy’s believes in partying and the joy of marking milestone moments with family and friends. For nearly 100 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been synonymous with the official start of the holiday season in the United States. During the unique challenges of these unsurpassed times, we felt it was important to continue this beloved American tradition that has been the opening of the holiday season for generations of families.

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