Though she did not appear live in New York City, the singer did perform in a pre-recorded segment from Nashville alongside her band.
Parton – adored by fans for her music, movies and charities – has been awash in adulation for donating $1m to Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.
The Nashville legend sang her rendition of “Holly Jolly Christmas” during her segment.
The pandemic means that there was no in-person attendance of the 94th annual event. The event was geared to a TV audience versus the huge crowds which typically line the 2.5-mile route through the heart of Manhattan.
The event took place on one block around Herald Square where the Macy’s flagship department store is located. Organisers implored pedestrians not to congregate in an effort to avoid large crowds.
The number of participants involved in the parade was also scaled back by 88 per cent, Variety reports.
While the parade had to be scaled back, it still included hours of musical performances, parade floats, and Santa Claus ending the show.
Musical appearances included performances by Patti LaBelle, Keke Palmer, Jordin Sparks, Pentatonix, Bebe Rexha and the Radio City Rockettes. The Roots and Jimmy Fallon opened the show.
New York City’s theatre scene was also making multiple appearances, like in past years, in pre-taped moments that include the casts of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, and Mean Girls.
These performances come at a time when Broadway shows have been postponed until at least May 2021 due to the pandemic.
The parade also featured augmented reality (AR) versions of some balloons that featured in the first Thanksgiving Day parades in the 1920s.
Executive producer Susan Tercero told Variety that organisers found a way to “balance” both pre-tapped and live performances for the broadcast.
“We will still be doing it live because there is some magic in that,” she said. “I think that people are missing live entertainment, one of those things where you never know what’s going to happen. And people will want to tune in to see how we put it all together.”
One performance change in the line-up is that all high school and college bands initially invited to perform during the parade were not allowed this year. They were instead invited to perform in the 2021 parade.
The NYPD Police Band, the West Point Band, and the FDNY bagpipe band are among the professional bands that performed instead.
Performers from other major New York City parades that had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus made appearances at the parade as well. The New York City Fire Department’s Emerald Band - known for participating in the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade - joined the Thanksgiving Day parade in a pre-recorded segment.
Performers from the West Indian Day parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, NYC Pride, and Coney Island USA Mermaid parades were invited to join the festivities as well.
The 94th parade comes after months of the city cancelling other events. It was decided the upcoming parade would include performances originally planned for the other cancelled parades.
Santa Claus once again closed out the parade, like he does every year.
NBC Today’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Al Roker – who recently returned to work after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer – led the three-hour telecast on Thursday.