Thanksgiving—and all of the turkey, gatherings, pies, and traditions that come with it—is only twelve days away, and many in the country are looking forward to one event in particular to kick off the holiday season: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade will begin live at 9 a.m. ET and last through noon ET. Other U.S. time zones can watch it on television from 9 a.m. to noon local time.
This year marks the 95th anniversary of the parade, which will march its way through New York City from its starting point at the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When it began in 1924, the parade was technically a Christmas parade, meant to showcase Macy’s new title of the “World’s Largest Store.” Though the holiday celebrated has changed in the years since, the spirit of the event remains the same.
“Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a New York City institution for more than nine decades, growing to become an icon of American pop culture as it annually marks the official start of the holiday season,” said executive producer of the parade Will Coss. “For our 95th celebration, we are delighted to return this cherished holiday tradition closer to its original form as we march down the streets of New York City and into the homes of a nationwide audience.”
After COVID restrictions all but shut down the parade last year, the return to normal comes as a relief. 2020’s celebration was lackluster in its lack of audience and the odd sight of specially-designed vehicles moving the balloons instead of smiling, waving, human handlers. To celebrate the return, Macy’s is introducing new floats and balloons and hosting an impressive cast of performers.
The latest balloon additions include a 41-foot Funko Pop!-inspired Grogu (a.k.a Baby Yoda from Disney’s The Mandalorian); Ada from the Netflix series Ada Twist, Scientist; a brand new design of Ronald McDonald; the star of Macy’s holiday campaign, Tiptoe the Reindeer; and Toni, the Bandleader Bear named after Macy’s parade pioneer Tony Sarg.
28 floats are to be featured in the parade, and three of the new floats are sure to stand out in the lineup. A colorful peacock float, sponsored by the streaming service of the same name, will be the first-ever float to stream a live feed. Minnie Mouse will be at the helm of Disney’s Cruise Line’s titanic float, and South African artist Karabo Poppy will have her design featured in the adventurous Wave of Wonder float.
Dozens of performers make up this year’s impressive roster, including Andy Grammer, Jon Batiste, Jordan Fisher, The Big Apple Circus, Kristin Chenoweth, Nelly, Tauren Wells, Ballet Hispánico, and the K-pop band Aespa. The casts from Broadway’s “Wicked,” Emmy winning “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” and “Six” will also make an appearance, along with the Rockettes.
Even though the parade is returning in full force this year, parade organizers and city officials have worked together to implement COVID protocols. While there are no indicators that audience members will be dictated beyond the city’s existing procedures, according to a statement by Macy’s, all volunteer participants and staff will be required to vaccinate and wear protective equipment. Some distancing rules will also be in place in areas of official Parade operations, but, on the whole, the event should be significantly closer to its pre-pandemic state than last year—the holidays, it seems, will go on.
“We applaud Macy’s work to creatively continue this beloved tradition last year and look forward to welcoming back Parade watchers to experience it safely, live and in-person this November,” said New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are thrilled to welcome back in its full form the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a world-renowned celebration that ushers in the magic of being in New York City during the holiday season.”