For this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the bands are back together.
Last time, the event altered some traditions to meet coronavirus pandemic protocols, one being the postponement of appearances by marching bands from schools across the country.
Since the parade won't be TV-only this year, spectators will be back too as NBC broadcasts the 95th annual edition of the New York holiday procession Thursday. Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker of “Today” will have their usual roles as the three-hour special's hosts.
“The fact that we're going to have some of the crowd back just gives me that feeling of, 'We're on a roll. Let's keep it going,'” Kotb says. “And I think this is emblematic of the route on which we're hopefully heading.”
The number of people permitted to line the parade route will be 10% to 20% below the norm. New character balloons include Grogu (or Baby Yoda) from “The Mandalorian” and the title figure from “Ada Twist, Scientist.” Among performers are Carrie Underwood, Kristin Chenoweth (whose former show “Wicked” will be among Broadway hits represented by musical numbers), Darren Criss, Kelly Rowland, Jimmie Allen, the Muppets and the Rockettes.
For parade-route-walker Roker, doing the 2020 version was memorable for a number of reasons, including the fact that he'd had prostate cancer surgery just a couple of weeks earlier.
“In planning my surgery, my goal was to have recuperated to be ready for the parade,” he says. “It's a touchstone for me, so it provided a certain sense of normalcy, even though it wasn't a normal parade. It was one I really needed, and I think a lot of people needed it.”
The ongoing existence of the Macy's Parade comforts Guthrie: “To have that continuity is really important and really meaningful. It'll mean a lot for people to be back out there participating.”
Kotb says that might pertain especially to the bands.
“I always picture their parents with their noses glued to the TV, being like, 'That's my kid!'” she says. “The fact that that's back brings an element that's beyond balloons. It's maybe the most real part of the parade.”