High-flying balloon figures star in Thanksgiving parade

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

The annual tradition, dating back nearly a century, filled the streets as a procession of giant inflatables and floats flowed more than 40 blocks from Central Park to Herald Square.

Children balanced on metal barricades and hung from scaffolding to watch the balloons amid mostly sunny skies and a light breeze.

‘Blue, blue. There’s Blue,” shouted Divyam Kumar, 6, as his father helped him and his 4-year-old brother Aanu Aryan 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 sensation Bluey, an Australian cattle pup making her parade debut.

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

Stuart, the one-eyed Minion, was also there to thrill the audience.

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

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

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

Snoopy, dressed as an astronaut, was followed by another old favorite, Papa Smurf.

This year’s parade featured 16 giant balloons, 28 floats, 40 new and historic inflatables, 12 marching bands, 10 performance groups, 700 clowns and a Santa Claus.

The procession of characters was joined by singer Paula Abdul, in her first parade performance; indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums; boy band Big Time Rush; “Blue’s Clues and 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 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 on a float to celebrate Central Park.

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

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

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

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

Costumed participants reenacted their annual Thanksgiving Day “Pilgrim Progress” procession, representing the 51 survivors of that first brutal winter of 1621 — though Thursday’s crew had better conditions, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s.

There was also a “National Day of Mourning” to honor Indigenous ancestors and protest against racism and oppression. “We are not conquering, we are not conquered, we are as strong as ever,” read a sign behind the loudspeakers.

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

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