Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been one of the most anticipated and popular traditions of the Thanksgiving holiday. Just last year, there were around 3.5 million in-person spectators in the parade’s 2.5 mile route, with even more people watching and enjoying the parade from home. 

Rachel Bonner, a Jupiter High sophomore, celebrates the tradition of watching the parade with her family every year on Thanksgiving.

“The Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition for my family and so many others. It’s something that’s important to families all around the country,” Bonner said.

Throughout the years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has drawn throngs of people who crowded together on Manhattan’s streets and in surrounding buildings as elaborate floats, marching bands, dancers, cheerleaders, giant balloons and the famous Rockettes travelled south from the Upper West Side to Herald Square. 

This year, the parade looked very different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a smaller parade with a much shorter route, and most of it was pre-recorded for a television audience. While the performances were typical of years past, marching bands did not perform, and the normal 2,000 balloon handlers were reduced to 130.  

In New York City, there were official warnings to the public to stay home, and police barriers were put in place to ensure that nobody could get too close, causing the normally grand parade to have little to no spectators. Most of the streets surrounding the parade’s one-block route were abnormally bare.  

Although a few curious spectators did catch a brief glimpse of the parade in person, most viewers decided to watch the parade from the comfort of their homes, away from the dangers of crowds during a pandemic. 

Despite the differences, millions of people still enjoyed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as it offered a sense of normalcy in an unconventional year. 

“I personally have loved the parade for as long as I can remember,” Bonner said, also enjoying this year’s parade despite how different the experience was compared to previous years. 

Bonner said she plans to “continue to watch for years to come,” hoping to possibly one day see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person in its full glory, without the changes made as a result of the pandemic.

“Although the experience wasn’t the same as most years due to the pandemic, the message and happiness it brings stayed the same,” Bonner said.