NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Giant balloons took to the clear, sunny sky over Midtown Manhattan on Thursday for the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with spectators lining up along the parade route and a heavy police presence keeping a watchful eye.

PHOTOS: 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day ParadeBalloon Inflation

READ MORE: New York State To Adopt New CDC Guidelines For Vaccinated People Starting This Wednesday, Cuomo Says

This year’s returning balloons included Hello Kitty, Snoopy and Paddington. There were also four new balloons, including Scrat the squirrel from “Ice Age,” Red from “Angry Birds,” Ronald McDonald wearing a new red outfit and Dino the Sinclair Oil dinosaur, who was making a comeback.

The performers included Jordin Sparks, Shawn Mendes and Pat Benatar.

Benatar, a Long Island native, told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck it was her first time going to the parade.

“It’s so crazy and fun, and it’s really a thrill to be here,” she said.

Officials estimated before the parade that 3 million people would be in attendance.

The parade took a new route this year, down Sixth Avenue. With the calm winds, handlers let the balloons fly higher, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.

“I just love it because all the floats are unique and different from all the other ones, and I just love it,” one little girl said.

“It’s so much better in person. You’ve got to see it,” said Tyler Gallagher, of New Hampshire. “If you had a bucket-list option, this is probably one of the greater things to see.”

Jamie and her daughters from Elmont were lining up at 3:45 a.m.

“I didn’t get sleep. I’ve been up since 5 o’clock in the morning yesterday,” Jamie said.

MORE: Guide To Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

“Actually, I just like to see the smile on my kids’ faces and seeing the balloons up close. They’re so gigantic. I love it. It’s amazing.”

Everyone had their own idea of what they liked best about the parade.

“Definitely the celebrities,” one boy told CBS2’s Emily Smith.

“The bands,” another boy said.

READ MORE: Illegal Motorbike Riders Strike Again, This Time Attack 76-Year-Old Man In Inwood Park

“Probably the floats,” said another boy.

The Early family from Rockville Centre was participating in the parade as clowns.

When WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond asked Pat Early what she enjoys about the parade, she said: “It’s the people on the side. It’s the kids. It’s Americana. Nobody gets to have this experience except for us, and it’s great.”

Crowds were excited for the tradition, but were also aware and extra alert less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. But Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said more than 2,500 officers were stationed along the parade route — the largest number of officers the department has ever assigned to the event.

“I feel very safe,” one man told CBS2’s Ilana Gold. “It’s very reassuring. It’s nice to see the NYPD out in full force, and makes you feel like you’re protected.”

The NYPD was using some high-tech tools and its newly formed Critical Response Team helped to watch over the parade.

In addition to the extra uniformed and plainclothes cops, there were K-9 units, bomb-sniffing dogs and mobile cameras being utilized.

Families along the route said they felt confident the NYPD had things covered.

When Smith asked Mark Milburn from Maryland if he considered canceling his trip, he said: “Absolutely. But we’re here. Got to move on.”

Police were already put to the test Wednesday night during the inflation of the balloons. The bomb squad rushed to 42nd Street by the Port Authority Bus Terminal after receiving a report about a suspicious package when an item was left unattended. It was cleared as no threat.

The NYPD said there are no specific, credible terror threats against the city, but it wasn’t taking any chances when it comes to keeping the city safe during the parade and doesn’t want the public being fearful.

“This city cannot be intimidated,” Bratton said. “Particularly for these events, let us celebrate this great time of the year. Let’s celebrate with our families. Let’s have a joyous time together.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD was doing a great job of keeping paradegoers safe.

“We all know that what terrorists try and do is intimidate. Well, the people in New York City are not intimidated. You can see it here today. They’re coming out in droves to celebrate everything great about this city and everything great about this country today.”

Bratton told CBS2 the security measures will be in place all weekend.

“We have Black Friday. Then we have the lighting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Then we have the millions of tourists and shoppers right on through New Year’s Eve. So these five weeks are an incredibly busy time for the city and for the New York City Police Department.”

MORE NEWS: Human Resources Commissioner Steven Banks Talks To CBS2 About NYC's Plan To Get Homeless Off Subways

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)