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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be radically pared down due to coronavirus

The annual holiday event that kicks off Christmas shopping season will now feature smaller events prerecorded throughout New York City.
The Olaf balloon moves through Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on Nov. 22, 2018.
The Olaf balloon moves through Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on Nov. 22, 2018.Andres Kudacki / AP

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a nearly century-old New York City institution, will be radically pared down from its usual larger-than-life format due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials said Monday.

The department store announced that it had to "reimagine" the upcoming 94th edition of the parade on Nov. 26 and said it'll be staged in a manner similar to its Fourth of July fireworks show.

"Following our successful, safe and innovative production of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, it is our intention to similarly reimagine Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this November," the retail giant said in a statement.

This year's Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show staged and recorded at several small displays across the five boroughs in the days leading up to the Independence Day show on NBC. Each display lasted just five minutes to avoid drawing crowds.

In this year's show, televised annually by NBC, parade events will be staged over two days, the overall number of participants will be reduced by approximately 75% and "all participants will be appropriately socially distanced," according to a Macy's statement. NBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

The traditional 2.5-mile parade route will not be a part of this year's event, organizers said. High school and college marching bands from around the country who were invited to perform this year will have their appearances deferred until 2021, with local professional marching bands taking their place.

The parade's trademark massive balloons will still be in play this year, but "without the traditional 80-100 handlers," instead employing "an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by" New York City police and transportation officials, according to Macy's.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said a live, mass gathering is still impossible with coronavirus in play.

"It will not be the same parade we're used to," he told reporters during his daily coronavirus briefing.

"(Macy's) is reinventing the event for this moment in history. And you will be able to feel the spirit and the joy of that day on television, online — not a live parade, but something that will really give us that warmth and that great feeling we have on Thanksgiving Day."

The mayor said he hopes the parade will be a live, mass event in 2021.

"We'll keep going forward and then next year, again, I look forward to things coming back in all their greatness so we can enjoy them together in person again," de Blasio said.