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

The annual tradition, which dates back almost a century, filled the streets as a procession of giant inflatable boats and floats poured 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,” cried Divyam Kumar, 6, as his father helped him and 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 wow the crowd.

But it was Snoopy that caught Brenner Chenenko, 8, in particular, even more so than the more modern puppies.

“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 father and son had seen the parade in person. Wopperer last saw a parade live three years ago, before the pandemic put the event on hold for a year.

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

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

The procession of characters was joined by singer Paula Abdul in their first parade appearance; indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums; boy band Big Time Rush; “Blue’s Clues & 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 celebrations, as were the stars of Peacock’s Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin – Adam Devine, Sarah Hyland and Flula Borg. Jimmy Fallon & The Roots celebrated Central Park with a float.

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

They thanked the troops and Biden said he will speak to some today.

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

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

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

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

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

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