World News – USA – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is television’s most glorious live event


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There is no event on television as good as the Macy Thanksgiving Parade. Every year, thousands of people from across the country come to Herald Square in ridiculous costumes and brave the elements in the name of unrestrained capitalism that televised Thanksgiving cheers. It’s a daunting undertaking, and I know it because I’ve been in the parade several times. In 2011, I sang the closing number with my summer camp and drove on Santa’s float, waving to the crowd and gossiping with Mrs.. . Claus about how cold it was on the way. But my big parade moment came in 2005 when I was performing in the opening number of the parade with another theater camp (I went to a lot of theater camps) and, if you can believe it, even had a little solo about how my father was in the army even though he was working in business development at the time. Sure, there are other parades – the Rose Parade, Easter Parade, and the like – but none have the same space as Macy’s Parade, which has been an institution for 96 years and has been held every year since 1924, except for a brief parade due to a 3 year hiatus of the Second World War.

This year, however, it looks a little different. The parade is still going on, but to an incredibly reduced extent as we are (somehow) still living in a fast-paced and uncontrolled global pandemic. Instead of skipping a year, this nearly century-old tradition has adapted to these unprecedented times. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the two-mile parade route has been shortened to a single city block. Instead of around 2,000 balloon holders, there will only be around 130, and all participants must be at least 18 years old. Yes, a version of what we came to know as Macy’s Parade will air on Thanksgiving morning on NBC, but it will be a shell of what it usually is. And while it is absolutely necessary to cut the case back this year, it’s also a bloody shame because the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is always one of the best pieces of live television we get all year round.

That might sound a bit over the top when you think about fancier and flashier dishes like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, but make no mistake, I absolutely meant what I said. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an absolute gem of an event – a messy, three-hour collection of content that is utterly imperfect. And that’s partly intentional. According to Business Wire, the 2019 Macy’s Parade had over 8. 000 volunteers, a really insane number of people trying to get national television organized and started at one time. From the weather to the performances to the balloonists and the literal balloons themselves, there are simply too many elements at play for everything to go smoothly. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t too big to fail, it’s too big not to fail. Sometimes the mistake is spectacular: Who could forget « The Day That Barney Died » in 1997, or the faulty Nutcracker balloon that took out that volunteer? But most of the mistakes happen on a smaller, more human scale, in moments that you missed it. A cheerleader falls from a pyramid. A majorette drops her baton and scurries to pick it up and rejoin the formation. A dancer slips because of bad weather. It’s live TV, baby, and anything can happen.

But it’s not just about the mistakes, it’s also about the hits, especially the Broadway hits. Zoomers may not know this, but before the days of YouTube, one of the few places you could see a performance of a Broadway musical without living in New York and exchanging Broadway ticket prices was in the first hour of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Every Thanksgiving Day, I would wake up and run to the TV to see the cast of Wicked or Jersey Boys or The Radio City Rockettes performing out in the elements, absolutely delighted with their talent and dedication to the craft. This year, the popular Broadway numbers were pre-recorded so that the parade wouldn’t be completely free of Broadway, but it just won’t be the same. The pandemic has robbed us of the opportunity to see this year’s version of Laura Benanti feeding chocolate to absolute strangers in My Fair Lady or future Tony nominee Adrienne Warren. She does the impossible and keeps her wig on her head despite the wind while killing a medley of Tina, and for that I will never forgive it.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the few events where celebrities, ordinary people and those between the cast of the “Who?” variety, caught together on absurd and colored floats that process down Broadway. The parade is for everyone so they really try to cater to everyone who has a list of cast members that goes from Celine Dion to Kane Brown to That Girl Lay Lay. Due to the collaborative nature of the event, we often see the seemingly separate worlds of lay people and celebrities side by side. If you pay attention you can see a boy disguised as Colonel Saunders realize that he is on national television for the first time in his life and ultimately steal the limelight from someone named Dustin Lynch by playing during his Songs drops a well-timed swab. If you look closely, you’ll see a boy riding a Sour Patch Kid float, dabbing his way through an entire Bad Bunny performance. It’s a melting pot where celebrities, « who, » ordinary people and their children, and you never know exactly who will get your attention at any given moment.

And then there’s the lip sync. Oh man, the lip sync. The messiest and perhaps funniest element of the entire ordeal. As TikTok taught us in 2020, lip syncing is an art that is difficult to achieve. Failure to do so can result in really exciting live television moments. I will never forget where I was when Rita Ora completely missed her cue to start « Let You Love Me » during Macy’s Parade 2018 and spent the rest of the song completely out of sync with her own song. Time seemed to stop at that moment as she watched Miss Ora in a blue puff jacket on a grandma’s house-inspired cart, surrounded by waving children disguised as ticket stubs, completely out of time with their own song. I am struggling to imagine another television event that could offer such absurd, compelling 3 minutes of television. Rita Ora isn’t the first celebrity to have lip sync issues at the parade, and she won’t be the last. Who could forget the lip-synching faux pas made by American Idol’s Scott McCreery, Ciara’s dance-heavy performance of « Level Up » (which was suspiciously deleted from YouTube), Jimmy Fallon and The Roots « Bird Is the Word » on The Root in 2018 ? the Duckman’s Swimmer or Diana Ross, who refuses to even pretend she’s singing live and completely forego a microphone.

However, the Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t just about lip-sync glitches, it’s also about the thousands of volunteers who come from across the country to earn their 5 minutes of fame. It’s a spotlight for the budding musicians of the Western Carolina University Marching Band in Cullowhee, North Carolina and the Catalina Foothills High School Falcon Band in Tucson, Arizona. It’s an opportunity for the 610 Stompers, a group made up entirely of New Orleans men who love to dance, strut their things, and the Capezio-clad dancers from Spirit of America, get their neon pink pompoms into a RuPaul remix. It’s a chance for stilt walkers, college cyclists, clowns and really just about anyone who voluntarily chooses to possibly wear a butter suit and get into a nudge match with Al Roker and definitely walk the parade route and wave at that Crowd of New Yorkers and tourists and 50 million people watching on their TVs.

This Thanksgiving festival is going to look different for millions of Americans, and a slightly smaller parade really is the nation’s least concern in 2020. We will get our soccer games and a smaller version of our Westminster Dog Show and we will also have the appearance of a Macy’s Parade, but it will be a far cry from what we saw before, which this year calls for. But let’s pour one for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades from yesteryear – an ambitious monstrosity, an impromptu spectacle, a beautiful mess that captures the best of what live television has to offer. Hopefully by this time next year the parade can continue as usual. The 8,000 participants walk the two-mile route down Broadway when it is raining or shining. Until then, this is Macy’s Parade, because where else are you going to really watch Miss Piggy save Tony Bennett’s life?

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2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thanksgiving, Macy’s, Parade

World News – USA – The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is television’s most glorious live event
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