The flying balloon characters are the stars of the Thanksgiving parade

NEW YORK (AP) – Throngs of spectators lined the streets of New York City 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, filled the streets as a procession of giant inflatables and floats raced more than 40 blocks from Central Park to Herald Square.

Children balance on metal barricades and hang from scaffolding to watch balloons amid mostly sunny skies and a light breeze.

“Blue, Blue. It’s blue,” 6-year-old Divyam Kumar yelled 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 international cartoon sensation Bluey, an Australian cattle pup making his parade debut.

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

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

But it was Snoopy who especially caught the eye of 8-year-old Brenner Chenenko, even more than most contemporary pups.

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

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

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

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

The procession of characters was joined by the singer Paula Abdul, in her first appearance in the parade; indie pop group 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 Who also attended the festivities, as did Peacock’s “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin” stars — Adam Devine, Sarah Hyland and Flula Borg. Jimmy Fallon & The Roots were on a float celebrating Central Park.

President Biden and Jill Biden called in the parade, as she 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 talk to some today.

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

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

The costumed attendees were re-enacting their annual Thanksgiving “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 ’40.

There was also a “National Day of Mourning” to honor Indigenous ancestors and to protest against racism and oppression. “We are not winning, we are not conquered, we are stronger than 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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