Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf And Elf On The Shelf To Make Their Debuts On Thursday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sixteen giant character balloons were being inflated Wednesday night in advance of their appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Wide-eyed kids and adults looked on as the massive balloons were pumped with helium.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports

“You think that ‘oh, that’s for the kids.’ But when you see one of these balloons in person, it turns you into a kid,” Macy’s creative director John Piper told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Balloon inflation teams were busy pumping up Kermit, Charlie Brown and Hello Kitty, just some of the more than two dozen balloons set to bounce down the parade route Thursday morning.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones Reports

Many onlookers tried to guess which character was being inflated next, as the flattened giants slowly took shape.

“They’re so much bigger than I could ever imagine just watching on TV. I love that part of them, they’re just so impressive,” an onlooker said.

Sonic The Hedgehog Balloon (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

“I’m from Toronto. I’ve never seen this before. This is very exciting. We don’t have anything like this in Toronto. Only in New York, only in New York,” a spectator told Diamond.

Many Superstorm Sandy survivors used the annual balloon blow-up event as therapy, something fun and uplifting after a lot of Sandy sadness.

“This is a little cheerful. It’s a parade and it cheers everyone up,” Zach Reichman told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

This year will feature some new balloons, including Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf and The Elf on the Shelf.

Hello Kitty Balloon (credit: CBS 2)

They’ll be joined by parade classics like Kermit the Frog, Spongebob Squarepants and Spider-Man, along with hundreds of clowns, 28 floats, bands, performers and much more.

“It’s one of the most awesome experiences,” said balloon inflation team member Sue Meyer. “One of the most exhausting 36 hours, but we love doing it.”

EXTRA: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012 Guide | Listen Live: 1010 WINS Parade Coverage Beginning At 5 a.m. Thursday

But getting ready for this year’s parade had some obstacles. The parade’s executive producer, Amy Kule, said their storage facility and studio are in towns in New Jersey that were flooded during Sandy.

“As soon as we were able to gain access back to the studio, everybody was even more dedicated to get this parade finished for those who really need something to smile about this Thanksgiving,” she said.

Balloon Under Netting (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

This year, 5,000 seats along the parade route were given away by the city to families hardest hit by the storm. Macy’s is providing transportation to and from the event.

“The city was hit hard and they’re still reeling and any time that you’ve been knocked down you look for reason to get up and a reason to smile, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade this year will be that reason,” Kule told CBS 2’s Carlin.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg surveyed all 16 balloons, mindful that many storm survivors will be unable to attend — or even watch — the parade and will continue to suffer.

“Those are people who don’t have heat, electricity, water, we have a responsibility to get them back and get their lives back and maybe next year they’ll be back here smiling as well,” Bloomberg said.

Kule said told the high-flying parade will help prove that even a storm as powerful as Sandy cannot hold New York down.

“It’s a joyous occasion and a time for renewal and to lift everybody’s spirit, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Kule said.

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The parade steps off at 77th Street and Central Park West, then heads south along Central Park West and east along 59th
Street to 6th Avenue, and finally to Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street.

Macy’s giant balloons were to be inflated until 10 p.m. on 81st Street and 77th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue.

There were road closures Wednesday and Thursday for parade preparations and the parade itself. For more information, click here.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

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