"Thanksgiving ain't Thanksgiving without the Macy’s Day parade," Kotb said. 

By Christine Burroni
November 17, 2020
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Hoda Kotb
| Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

We may have lost count of the number of canceled events this year, but when it comes to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the show must go on — safely, of course.

Announced in September that this year's celebration will still be happening, albeit in a modified fashion, and Today anchor Hoda Kotb along with executive producer of the iconic parade, Susan Tercero, explained on a recent media call that yes, things will be different this year, but the spirit of the event that viewers know and love will be just the same.

"We have to have the Macy's Day Parade," Kotb said. "I feel like Thanksgiving ain't Thanksgiving without the Macy’s Day parade and I’m so happy we’re doing it."

The broadcast, taking place on Thursday, Nov. 26, will look similar to years past for those watching at home, minus the crowds as there will be no designated spaces along the parade route — including the traditional spot right outside Macy's on 34th St. — for spectators.

"It's going to be different, obviously you’re not going to have all the crowds, but for most people who watch it from home you're going to see what you normally see like, 'Wow, look at that float!'" Kotb said. "We can't do it the way we always did it, everything's different, but I feel like when you're watching from home you're going to enjoy it as much as you would have in years past."

"What you’ll see is that we did a few things that were really mindful of the safety of not only our participants but our New Yorkers," Tercero added. 

Credit: NBC/Getty

As for navigating the logistics for one of the most major events of the year in the times of COVID-19, Tercero explained that some performances, including the incredibly missed Broadway acts and The Rockettes, will be pre-taped and marching bands from around the country who were slated to perform this year have been deferred to 2021.

Instead, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will give the spotlight to tri-state area bands and New York City parades that were canceled due to COVID-19 with performers from West Indian American Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Parade. The Broadway casts of "Hamilton," "Mean Girls," and "Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations" will perform.

Music icons Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle will also perform along with Bebe Rexha, Jordan Sparks, and Leslie Odom Jr.

As always, Santa will appear as the parade's grand finale.

"We really focus on trying to deliver a gift to New Yorkers and to the whole country on Thanksgiving morning and that's what we’re doing again this year," Tercero said, mentioning that the parade is typically planned 18 months in advance. "I know from our perspective that's what we wanted to do from the very beginning, being able to do that and then deliver the parade safely through the comfort of television in your home is certainly something priority for us."

Overall, the parade will have 75% fewer participants who will all be over the age of 18. The massive balloons that float down the streets of Manhattan will have fewer handlers than normal and will be assisted by various utility vehicles. And instead of starting uptown, the parade will kick off at 34th St in front of the iconic Macy's flagship store.

The parade will air from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on NBC in all time zones.

"We’re going to bring our energy, we're going to make up for the crowd," Kotb said. "You’re going to be like, 'Hoda and Savannah Shhh!' We’re going to make sure that it feels like it always has."

Christine Burroni is Travel + Leisure’s Digital News Editor. Find her keeping up with just about everything on Twitter or see what she’s up to in NYC or on her latest trip on Instagram.