NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marched, rolled and soared in traditional style Thursday as police went all-out to secure it in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.
Three million spectators braved the cold to see 26 different floats, 17 giant character balloons, 1,000 clowns, and more than 1,000 cheerleaders from across the country, CBS2’s Erin Logan reported.
Smokey Robinson, The Roots, Flo Rida and Wyclef Jean were among the stars celebrating, along with performances from the casts of Broadway’s “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” plus a dozen marching bands.
The grandstands and the sidewalks were packed with people of all ages.
Leila’s mom said the little girl’s eyes lit up when the “Shimmer and Shine” float cruised by Columbus Circle.
“I watch ‘Shimmer and Shine,'” Leila said.
The kids were on Cloud 9, and so were some of their parents.
“My mom used to take me here a lot. My mom, god bless her soul, she’s no longer here. So I’m here with my kids and my husband,” said Tabitha Sparrow.
There were first-timers at the parade, too, like Africa Harrington’s mother. Her family made their way north from the Virgin Islands.
“Great, I love it,” her mom said.
“It’s my fist time here. Well, it’s my 33rd one if you count the TV, but this is my first in person,” one spectator said. “I liked seeing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Power Rangers and all the other cool stuff because those are childhood icons. I feel like there’s a lot of nostalgia here.”
“We come every year and we have the best time,” said Jeanine Colletti, of Bergen County, New Jersey. “We’re so thankful for our family and our friends.”
“It’s extraordinary, seeing something live you never quite know how it’s going to be and this just blew all my expectations. It’s really magical,” another spectator said.
Protecting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has always been a priority for the NYPD, and this year there will be extra security on hand for the annual event.
“This is something that I think about all the time. I don’t think I take anything more serious than that and we made some changes,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
The mayor and police brass have repeatedly stressed that visitors shouldn’t be deterred. But they’re asking spectators to be alert for anything suspicious.
“There is no credible and specific threat against the parade,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The parade route was lined with concrete barriers, 16 ton sanitation trucks filled with sand blocking streets protecting against a truck attack similar to the one on the West Side Bike path that claimed eight lives on Halloween.
“I’d also like to thank the Department of Sanitation — the men and women that are manning the sand trucks that are blocking the route, keeping unauthorized vehicles off the route,” O’Neill added.
To ensure safety, vapor sniffing dogs wandered through crowds while officers watched from above and hid in plain sight. Officers also were escorting each of the giant balloons.
“We have people at high posts. We have observation teams, there will be sniper teams in and around. We will have undercover assets in a lot of different buildings so there’s going to be a lot you can see out there and a lot you won’t see,” NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan said.
“This beautiful event happens because we are safe. And our thanks to the NYPD for keeping us safe.” de Blasio said.
Paradegoers also showed their appreciation for police: The NYPD marching band and a group of mounted officers got some of the biggest cheers from spectators lined up as many as 15 deep along barricades. Among other crowd favorites: as did the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon.
The parade kicked off at 9 a.m. Thursday from Central Park West and 77th Street.
The parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on the Upper West Side. No one was injured.
In 2005, one of the parade’s signature giant balloons caught a gust, hit a Times Square lamppost and injured two people. The candy cane was smaller than the giant balloons.
Hundreds filed in on Wednesday night to get a sneak peek of the spectacle. The balloon inflation event has become a tradition of it’s own. Heavily-armed NYPD officers guarded the crowds packing West 74th Street and at the only public entrance on Central Park West, police checked bags.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)