Every year, Karen Mueller turns on her TV to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It’s the first thing she does, and it was no different this year.
The parade she and millions of Americans saw Thursday, was a different event altogether. But Mueller was glad to see the 94-year-old tradition carry on at the end of a tumultuous year marked by uncertainty and loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s a positive thing. It gives people a little bit of hope because we can still live our lives," said Mueller, 54, of Hicksville. "It gives us a little bit of hope that there’s a rainbow somewhere."
Despite the rain, those tasked with putting on the parade didn't need much more than a wind breaker. Thursday's high of 65 degrees in Central Park was the third warmest Thanksgiving on record for the metropolitan area and tied 1966 and 2004, according to the National Weather Service. Only 1933, when the high was 69, and 2007, when the temperature topped out at 66, beat Thursday's balmy conditions.
The three-hour-long parade marched on with giant balloons, exquisite floats and mask-clad performers, though some performances were pretaped.
The traditional 2.5-mile parade route was shortened to a one-block stretch of 34th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues in front of Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan. Some of the inflatables were pulled by specialized vehicles instead of 80 to 100 handlers. Overall, parade organizers said the number of participants behind the virtual event was cut by nearly 90%.
In past years, parade-watching was not on the to-do list for Terri Arrigon, 72, unless she happened to catch a Broadway performance during the broadcast parade. But she tuned in Thursday for a few minutes.
"It was beautiful," said Arrigon of Setauket. "It’s a wonderful tradition. I think it’s nice that they are doing a brief parade to uphold the tradition in the city even though it’s a totally different year. It makes a lot of people happy. So why not?"
For Janet Holly in Dix Hills, the parade is part of a family ritual.
Her Thanksgiving Day starts with cinnamon rolls, sausages and the parade. While the floats pass by and the performances play on in the background, she prepares for a dinner that includes sweet potatoes, string bean casserole, stuffing and snack dips. In the afternoon, the family fries a turkey.
Since she was a child, Holly did not miss a parade.
"It’s something that my parents did. We would wake up and put on the parade," she said. "My mother always used to cry when she saw Santa Claus at the end. And I was always like: ‘Why are you crying?’ She’s just like: ‘It just makes me so happy.’"
Later on, Holly’s son Brendan and daughter Lauren both performed with the All American Marching Band.
Except for the years she saw the parade live when her children were in it, Holly said this year’s crowd-absent show didn’t feel that much different on TV.
"You saw the floats. You saw some of the marching bands," she said, except that Mrs. Santa Claus was wearing a mask, as did the other performers.
In the end, "I’m glad we still had it because with the way things are, we need things to keep our spirits up," she said.
With Vera Chinese