Thousands gather to watch floats and performances as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returns in full force following scaled-back 2020 event

A dance team performs on the parade route.
Revelers take part during the 95th-annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images
  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full force on Thursday along the streets of New York City.
  • The spectacle marked a symbolic return to normalcy following the smaller, crowdless 2020 event.
  • Photos from the parade show thousands of revelers celebrating the event.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full glory Thursday following a scaled-back 2020 procession because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 95th annual parade kicked off in New York City  with 15 gigantic helium-filled balloons and more than 4,500 volunteers in tow. Photos from the scene showed crowds of joyous spectators lining from the Upper West Side to Midtown Manhattan — a stark contrast to thenearly-crowdless one-block iteration of last year’s parade.

The parade, which began in 1924, has rarely been fully cancelled, but was during World War II. The 2020 event featured pre-taped performances.

But this year’s parade was back in force with a 2.5 mile (5km) route featuring several popular children’s characters in balloon form, as well as live Broadway and musical performances. 

 

Thousands of people gathered along the NYC parade route to celebrate the full return of the annual helium-filled spectacle.
Confetti covers marchers in the parade.
Revelers take part in the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images
Nearly 6,500 people came together to make Thursday’s parade possible, according to The New York Times.

Longtime spectators, who were left out of last year’s event, returned to New York City streets to celebrate the post-pandemic symbol.

“Moments of celebration are important,” Leroy Lamar of Atlanta, told The Times. “And it is important that we do them together.”

High school and college marching bands and dance teams from throughout the country made the journey back after last year’s parade primarily featured local acts to avoid cross-country travel amid the pandemic.

 

 

 

But despite the celebratory return, COVID precautions were still in place throughout the event.
Crowds watch the parade.
Crowds attend the 95th-annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images
All parade staffers and volunteers were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks throughout the event, The Associated Press reported, though some high-profile performers and singers were allowed to ditch the face coverings.

There was no vaccine requirement for parade spectators, but the city of New York encouraged revelers to keep their faces covered in the crowds.

Another popular holiday tradition — the inflating of the massive balloons on the night before the parade — did have a vaccine requirement for viewers. 

The parade featured 15 giant balloons as well as 28 floats.
The SpongeBob SquarePants balloon floats above the parade route.
SpongeBob SquarePants and Gary balloon during the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Some of the iconic gargantuan balloons were as high as four-story buildings and as wide as six taxicabs, according to The Times. 

 

 

In addition to beloved classic characters, some new faces joined the sky-high party.
A Grogu balloon floats above the parade.
Star Wars’ Grogu balloon during the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
New balloons joining the lineup include Ada Twist, Scientist from the kids Netflix series; Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee; and Grogu, also known as “Baby Yoda,” from “The Mandalorian.”

Grogu’s appearance in the parade marks the first time a Star Wars themed balloon has joined the event. 

 

Big-name entertainers graced the parade’s floats to perform throughout the event.
Kelly Rowland rides on a parade float.
Kelly Rowland attends the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Celebrities involved in the parade included Kelly Rowland, Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Miss America Camille Schrier, and the band Foreigner.

Broadway casts and the Radio City Rockettes also performed music and dance numbers. 

 

And a special guest joined the Blue’s Clues float to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary.
A Blue's Clues float and balloon moves through the parade route.
Blue’s Clues balloon during the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Almost 20 years after he departed the hit kid’s show “Blue’s Clues,” original host Steve Burns joined his younger brother, Joe, and the show’s current host, Josh on the float.

Burns hosted the beloved Nickelodeon series from 1996 to 2002 before he left for college. 

The show celebrated its 25th anniversary in September.

To many, the parade’s full production marked a symbolic return to normalcy following the pandemic-struck holiday season of 2020.
The Snoopy balloon floats above the parade.
The Snoopy balloon during the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Snoopy has been a parade staple for decades, according to Macy’s, and this year was no diffferent. 
President Joe Biden even called into the parade to celebrate America’s return.
Parade walkers hold letters spelling out 'Macy's Day Parade'
A view of the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Biden called NBC broadcaster Al Roker on-air to mark the parade’s return.

“After two years, we’re back. America is back. There’s nothing we’re unable to overcome,” Biden said over the phone.

And just like every year before, the parade closed out with the arrival of Santa Claus and his sleigh to mark the start of the Christmas season.
Santa Claus sits in his sleigh.
Santa Claus attends the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Santa Claus also made an appearance, waving to cheering onlookers.