By Amelia Roth-Dishy
In a normal year, the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving marks a (literally) buoyant neighborhood tradition: the blowing up of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade giant balloons. From 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., the inflation operation sets up shop on 77th and 81st Streets between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West and the surrounding side streets. Whoever finds themselves on the Upper West Side on a Wednesday night — mostly Upper West Siders, that is — can gawk as the popular balloons grow slowly into their massive airborne forms. In the morning, the balloons and their many handlers turn right onto Central Park West to begin their long, festive march downtown.
Alas, this year will be different. In accordance with COVID-19 safety measures, Macy’s has reconstituted the event as a TV-only presentation filmed at Herald Square. The parade route is scratched. The signature balloons will somehow make an appearance, albeit an automated one — “[they] will be flown without the traditional 80-100 handlers and instead employ an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYCDOT and NYPD,” Macy’s said in a press release. But the so-called “Giant Balloon Inflation public event” will not occur.
We hope the balloons know that they will always be welcomed on 77th and 81st Streets with open arms. Until then, Upper West Siders can wave to their favorite inflatable characters through the screen on Thanksgiving Day, from 9 a.m. to noon on NBC.