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How Macy's is pulling off the Thanksgiving Day Parade this year

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature a host of pandemic-related changes, but there will still be giant balloons, floats and musical performances.
/ Source: TODAY

There won't be a two-mile route or a crowd of millions, but next week's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will still deliver plenty of the holiday spectacle in a year unlike any other.

This year's parade in New York City will be more of a made-for-TV presentation than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it will feature the signature giant balloons, elaborate floats and Broadway performances that have become a staple of the parade that began in 1924.

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This year's event, which will once again by hosted by TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker, will not travel the usual 2 1/2-mile route and instead will be held around Herald Square in Manhattan, where Macy's flagship department store is located.

The parade is usually attended by more than 3 million people in person, but this year will be more about staying home to watch the parade on NBC to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which is surging across the country.

"Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we can't do this without people in the city of New York and the state really supporting us and guiding us along the way," Susan Tercero, the executive producer of the parade, said on TODAY Friday.

"It's been a very interesting year, but our goal is to really deliver a wonderful, safe, entertaining event for everybody Thanksgiving morning."

A highlight for many every year is seeing the new balloons. TODAY got a glimpse at two new ones that will be flying on Turkey Day - one of the Boss Baby from the hit animated movie, and one of Red Titan from the popular YouTube channel "Ryan's World."

The balloons will not be pulled by hand by a large group of workers this year and will instead be anchored by specially-designed vehicles driving in precision.

The number of participants in this year's parade has been cut by about 75%, and those taking part will only be from the New York tri-state area and will be socially distanced and wearing masks. New Yorkers are also being asked not to gather in the Herald Square area to watch in person.

"That's what we're really encouraging, that everybody stay home," Tercero said. "This is not something to watch for New Yorkers in the streets, it's something to watch safely from their homes."

Broadway, which was highlighted by TODAY's Halloween spectacle last month, will also be featured in the parade celebration with pre-taped productions from "Hamilton," "Ain't Too Proud," "Mean Girls," and "Jagged Little Pill." It's a welcome spotlight for Broadway, which has been closed since March and hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

There also will be musical performances from Pentatonix, Dolly Parton, Patti LaBelle and more.

Another anticipated segment of the parade is always the marching bands from around the country, which will again be a little different this year.

Next week's parade will include a handful of local marching bands, as well as performers from other parades that have been casualties of the pandemic, like the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the West Indian Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Pride Parade and the Mermaid Parade, according to Tercero.

Viewers can also rest assured that the main guest of honor will be in attendance like always, as Santa Claus will make his joyous annual appearance.

And last but certainly not least, there's a good bet Al will once again be yelling at a man in a butter suit, which was one of the only-on-live-TV moments that had everyone smiling at last year's parade.

"You know what, there will be butter, that's what I can tell you this year," Tercero said. "We will absolutely have butter man joining us."