44 years on, the New York Thanksgiving Parade marches on

Written by Tatiana Siegel for CNN

For nearly four decades, the world’s largest family celebration honored the most traditional holiday of the year. Now, the first Thanksgiving Parade since the 1918 flu epidemic will also mark the first time in 62 years that people in the U.S. are not being told to “go home.”

A total of 36 floats and 5,000 performers walked down 42nd Street from Midtown Manhattan to Herald Square on Thursday, according to CNN’s Ralph Ellis, who was on the ground. Two of the floats were flagged by the US Coast Guard, which reported that none of the floats faced any unusual difficulties.

The New York Post reported that Macy’s is close to canceling the parade altogether due to rising costs and declining crowd sizes. (A spokesperson for Macy’s confirmed to CNN that “the parade and much of the popular holiday season must go on as planned.”) As parade attendance and revenues have dropped over the years, from a peak of 2.25 million people in 1965 to 600,000 last year, Macy’s has suspended delivery of its balloons, limited promotion of floats and changed a long-running tradition of decorating the dragon mascot.

The crowds swarmed to see the balloons and floats. Fourteen million more people watched online than did the previous year, and were able to view the same content as last year on YouTube or streaming sites.

This year’s parade, which also has James Taylor and Josh Groban on the bill, is expected to draw 1.7 million spectators.

The old-fashioned old-fashioned ways still work: crowds and expectations. This year’s parade marks the rise of vernacular in popular culture and the continued interest in what The New York Times calls “the annual eruption of sequins and bells.”

But despite the tech advances, trickle-down economics and the near disappearance of brassy bells, a little experimentation is always encouraged. When you’ve gone up against the likes of Amazon — and that kind of competition — one need not try too hard to impress.

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