A high-kicking Kung Fu Panda and a diary-toting Wimpy Kid joined the giant balloon lineup as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade unfolded today, drawing tens of thousands of spectators to the annual extravaganza on a chilly, overcast morning.
Emily Rowlinson, a tourist from London, squealed and snapped pictures with her mobile phone as the massive Smurf balloon floated by a packed pavement on along the Manhattan route.
“We don’t have anything like this in England,” she exclaimed. “We have parades. We don’t have any sort of huge, floating beasts. It’s very cool.”
As millions more watched the live broadcast on television, revellers gathered nationwide for other parades in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Entertainers on tap in New York included Kanye West, Gladys Knight and Colombian rocker Juanes. The Broadway casts of American Idiot and Elf performed, along with marching bands from across the US.
Perched on her father’s shoulders, 16-month-old Stella Laracque wriggled and danced with excitement as SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, Shrek and other beloved figures wafted past her.
“She doesn’t really know the characters, but she’s loving it,” said her father, Mike Laracque of Manhattan.
Another new balloon character was Virginia O’Hanlon, the eight-year-old girl whose letter to the editor elicited the response, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
And, as always, there was a Santa Claus in the parade. A huge cheer erupted as he passed by a crowd gathered about midway along the route.
Returning balloons included Pillsbury Doughboy and Spider-Man – the last with a new fan in Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said in an interview that he had traditionally favoured Snoopy, but after the Marvel Entertainment character was involved in a recent event promoting city services for job-seekers, “Spidey is my new favourite.”
The Macy’s parade started in 1924 when employees from the department store marched in costume from Harlem to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street. The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 because rubber and helium were needed for the Second World War, making Thursday’s parade the 84th.
The parade followed the route it inaugurated last year, starting on Central Park West and proceeding down Seventh and Sixth Avenues to 34th Street. The route had to be changed when vehicles were banned from parts of Broadway.
Workers removed street lights and traffic lights to make way for the massive balloons and were standing by to replace the equipment.
In Detroit, a morning drizzle and chilly temperatures were not enough to keep John and Matt Fisher from attending that city’s parade. The father and son had their vehicle set up a day ahead of time and by Thursday morning had a prime spot for watching the parade – equipped with coffee, hot cocoa, soup and chilli dogs.
“Got to see Santa,” said John Fisher, 53. “If we don’t see Santa, we’re not sure he’s gonna bring presents.”