More than 3.5 million people are expected to line the streets of Manhattan on Thursday morning, ready to spot their favorite larger-than-life balloons and celebrities for the 91st annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, according to the store.
The company starts working on the parade about 18 months before it kicks off, and starts preparing the balloons about a year out, said Susan Tercero, group vice president of special productions for Macy’s.
“I think this is something people have been watching obviously for decades. It’s a tradition,” she said. “We try to have something for everyone because of that, because there’s an expectation that people remember things from their childhood. It’s really incredible.”
Rick Davis, 67, came from Idaho to visit his kids for Thanksgiving and said he plans on going to view the parade. He added his 101-year-old mother grew up in New York and is excited to tell her he went.
“It’s just part of America,” he said, adding he was “grateful that I’m 6-feet-1-inches and I can see everything.”
Michigan resident Sue Rawlings packed her time in the city with holiday cheer, including seeing the Rockettes and, of course, saving room for the parade. Her granddaughter, she said, was even marching in it.
“It makes you feel like a kid again,” she said. “I’m just excited to be here.”
With the weather on his side, Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen” will debut as a giant balloon along the more than 2.5-mile route. The Grinch prepping to steal Christmas, Jett from “Super Wings,” and Chase from “Paw Patrol” are also new this year, after passing with flying colors a Nov. 4 test session in New Jersey.
Macy’s will have a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree in the parade, accompanied by more than 100 lucky and talented employees who auditioned to sing, Tercero said.
Some favorite balloons will return, including Charlie Brown, Hello Kitty and the Pillsbury Doughboy, according to Macy’s. And live performances from stars like Andra Day and Common, Flo Rida, and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots will add some entertainment to the chilly morning.
In addition to the balloons, spectators will watch 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers, more than 1,000 clowns and 12 marching bands, according to Macy’s.
Steve Browne, 50, said he was excited the parade for the over-the-top nature of the spectacle because “we’re quite reserved in the U.K.”
“We’ve seen it so many times on ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ we’re going to see it in real life,” he added. “It’s the beginning of Christmas, getting into the spirit.”
Karla Snoozy, 57, was visiting her brother who lives in New Jersey for the holiday weekend and admiring the Macy’s window displays on Tuesday.
“I love all the hubbub about it,” she said of the parade. “It’s a great tradition — it’s a lot of people in one place for a happy thing.”
Those wishing to watch the balloons get blown up the night before, which typically draws thousands to the Upper West Side, will have to show up two hours earlier than in past years. For safety reasons, the inflation will take place from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to the NYPD.
While there is no specific threat against the parade, security will be on high alert for the event, as has become custom for other high-attendance events. The city will have a “stronger than ever” police presence for the parade, Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this week.
The NYPD will deploy aviation units, heavy weapons teams, rooftop surveillance teams and K-9 units, as well as make use of sand trucks to stop potential vehicle attacks. The parade takes place just weeks after a man slammed a rental truck into a TriBeCa bike path, mowing down bikers and killing eight.
On Wednesday, several streets on the Upper West Side will be closed to traffic, including Central Park West from West 73rd to 85th streets, and several side streets between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. On Thursday, several blocks around the parade unit will be closed as well.
And spectators should leave additional time to get to the parade as the MTA will be operating on a Sunday — less frequent — schedule for subways and buses, according to the agency. The Staten Island Railway will be operating on a Saturday schedule.