High-flying balloon characters star in the Thanksgiving parade

NEW YORK (AP) – Crowds of spectators lined the streets of New York Thursday as colorful high-flying balloons helped usher in the holiday season during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The annual tradition, which dates back nearly a century, packed streets as a giant inflatable procession and floats streamed for more than 40 blocks from Central Park to Herald Square.

The children scaled metal barricades and hung from the scaffolding to watch the balloons amid mostly sunny skies and little wind.

“Blue, Blue. There’s Blue,” said Divyam Kumar, 6, as his father helped him and his brother Aanu Aryan, 4, balance on a metal rail.

The youngster was referring to the star of the animated show “Blue’s Clues” – not to be confused with the international cartoon Bluey, an Australian cattle prodigy making his parade debut.

Bluey’s balloon was as tall as a four-story building and stretched as wide as seven taxi cabs.

Stuart, the one-eyed Minion, was also there to delight the crowd.

But it was Snoopy that caught the attention of Brenner Chenenko, 8, even more than the more contemporary pups.

“It’s one of the classics,” said the young man from Rochester, New York, who lined the parade route with his father Nate and grandfather John Wopperer.

This was the first time the father and son saw the parade in person. Wopperer saw a live parade three years ago, before the pandemic sidelined the event for a year.

Next was Snoopy, dressed as an astronaut, by another old-fashioned favorite, Papa Smurf.

This year’s parade featured 16 giant balloons, 28 floats, 40 novelty and heritage inflatables, 12 marching bands, 10 performing groups, 700 comedians and one Santa Claus.

Singer Paula Abdul joined the parade of characters, appearing in the first parade; indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums; boy band Big Time Rush; “Blue Ears & You!” host Josh Dela Cruz; singer Gloria Estefan; gospel singer Kirk Franklin; actor Mario Lopez; reggae star Ziggy Marley; and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles.

Singers Joss Stone, Jordin Sparks and Betty Who were also part of the festivities, as were the stars of Peacock’s “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin” — Adam Devine, Sarah Hyland and Flula Borg. Jimmy Fallon & The Roots were floating in the Central Park celebration.

President Biden and Jill Biden called in the parade, as he did last year. Biden thanked the firefighters, police and first responders, saying, “They never take a break.”

They thanked the troops and Biden said he would be reaching out to talk to some today.

When asked about their plans for the day in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Bidens said it would involve family, and spending some time locally, thanking first responders.

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, the English settlement founded by the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower, two annual events were held to embrace “all aspects” of the holiday, town officials said.

Costumed participants were re-enacting their annual “Pilgrim Progress” procession on Thanksgiving Day, representing the 51 survivors of that brutal first winter of 1621 – although Thursday’s crew had better conditions, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s.

There was also a “National Day of Mourning” honoring indigenous ancestors and protesting against racism and oppression. “We are not giving up, we are not defeated, We are as strong as ever,” read a sign behind the speakers.

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Associated Press reporters Deepti Hajela and Kathy McCormack contributed to this story.

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