How to watch this year’s virtual event

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For the first time in more than 75 years, there will be no parade of balloons and crowds through the streets of New York on Thanksgiving Day. The annual Macy’s sponsored parade – which usually kicks off the Christmas season – is not canceled. But the event will be different in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Here’s what you need to know about how Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is going this year, and when you can tune in to see the festivities.

Macy’s Thanksgiving parade takes place, but without the crowds

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

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Each year, millions of people roam the streets of Manhattan to witness the parade of giant balloons and marching bands. But the pandemic has put the kibosh on events with large crowds. The organizers of the parade have therefore become creative.

Instead of taking place on the usual 2½ mile parade route, this year’s action will all take place outside the flagship store in Macy’s Herald Square, according to an FAQ on Macy’s website. Social distancing, limited staff, and staggered calling schedules will be in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Masks will be required for all participants. Other changes include the use of professional musicians instead of the high school and college bands that usually occur. And instead of the balloon handlers that typically keep characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants from blowing off, there will be special vehicles that will hold the giant inflatables in place.

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

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

One thing that won’t be different about this year’s show is when it airs. You can always tune in on Thanksgiving morning to see the fun on NBC. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday, November 26 and continues until 12 p.m. ET.

In fact, for home viewers, things don’t look that different this year, as the TV typically airs performances outside the Herald Square store. Most of what you see on TV will be live, although a few segments will be recorded on Wednesday, according to Asbury Park Press.

Why not just cancel the parade?

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

Considering the changes needed to run a safe event, some people might wonder why the organizers didn’t just cancel this year’s Thanksgiving Parade. But according to Macy’s, they thought holding a parade this year was more important than ever.

Macy’s believes in celebration and the joy of marking important moments with family and friends. For nearly 100 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has been synonymous with the official start of the holiday season in the United States. In the face of the unique challenges of this unprecedented time, we felt it was important to continue this cherished American tradition that has been the opening act of the holiday season for generations of families.

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