Now in its 93rd year, the spectacle of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has ushered in the holiday season with marching bands, colorful floats, character balloons, musical performances, and, of course, the arrival of Santa Claus. This year’s festivities also include a handful of country stars, although you’ll need to do some channel-flipping to catch them all.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch the Thanksgiving tradition.
How to watch: The parade airs on NBC from 9:00 a.m. to noon across all time zones, kicking off with an all-star musical number featuring the Muppets and the cast of children’s favorite Sesame Street, which celebrates the landmark series’ 50th anniversary. Today hosts Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Al Roker are scheduled to provide commentary. CBS also airs “portions” of the parade, hosted by Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier and Keltie Knight.
Who’s performing: On the CBS coverage of the event, Miranda Lambert is set to perform two songs from the recently released Wildcard: “Bluebird” and “Settling Down.” Country artists on the NBC telecast are Chris Young, Chris Janson, and Tenile Townes, with additional performances by Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Lea Michele, Chicago, Ciara, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, Idina Menzel, and others. During the show’s first hour on NBC, Celine Dion will debut a song from her new album Courage. Along with the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes, the casts from current Broadway shows will take over Herald Square, including performers from the musicals Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Beetlejuice, Hadestown, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
What new in floats? Of the 26 floats making their way along the parade route, five are new. Of special note is Home Sweet Home, which features Tenille Townes. Sponsored by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the float will be accompanied by a 269-square-foot “mini-Cracker Barrel” restaurant and home store, which replicates the experience of visiting the popular chain of eateries and shops, now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Featuring reclaimed wood from the very first Cracker Barrel store, which opened in Lebanon, Tennessee, on September 19th, 1969, the replica will open in Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square on Wednesday, November 27th.
Will the balloons be able to fly? Last year’s parade-goers had to deal with wind gusts and frigid temps, and while this year’s forecast isn’t quite as ominous, high winds are something of a concern. A staple of the parade since 1927, the air-filled characters have evolved from being carried along on sticks to balloonicles (balloons with vehicles inside) to trycaloons (ones containing tandem tricycles). New for 2019 are Astronaut Snoopy, Green Eggs & Ham, and SpongeBob SquarePants and his meowing sea-snail pal Gary. Making a rare reappearance in recognition of his 75th anniversary will be fire-safety advocate Smokey Bear. For the first time since it began in 2005, the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery, which commissions artworks from renowned contemporary artists, will spotlight the work of Japan’s Yayoi Kusama. The first female artist to receive the commission, she’ll display her colorfully dotted balloon titled Love Flies Up to the Sky.