NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will return to its pre-pandemic form on Thursday, with its route restored through Manhattan, high-flying helium balloons once again pulled by handlers and crowds welcomed back to cheer them on.
Rehearsals were in full swing on Wednesday for the iconic parade, now in its 95th year.
Also Wednesday, families will get to enjoy the Upper West Side tradition of 15 character balloons coming to life as they are blown up the night before, so long as guests 12 and older are vaccinated.
Astronaut Snoopy will hover overhead as the parade steps off this year.
This year’s parade — the 95th annual — will snap back to form after bowing to pandemic restrictions last year. It will feature 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands and nine performance groups and, of course, Santa Claus bringing up the rear.
New balloon giants joining the line-up include Ada Twist, Scientist; the pint-sized hero from “The Mandalorian,” and the Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee on a sled.
As in years past, the New York Police Department said it will block off all vehicle access points to the parade route with sand-filled garbage trucks, other heavy vehicles and approximately 360,000 pounds of concrete barriers. Thousands of officers are assigned to the parade route, including counterterrorism teams. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said there were no specific, credible threats to the parade.
There will be new floats led by the cast of “Girls5eva” — Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell and Busy Philipps — Nelly and Jordan Fisher, while Jon Batiste will be on an alligator-themed float celebrating Louisiana’s music, food and culture.
Other celebrities on hand will include Carrie Underwood, Jimmie Allen, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Foreigner, Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Miss America Camille Schrier, Muppets from “Sesame Street” and the three past and current hosts of “Blue’s Clues” — Steve Burns, Donovan Patton and Josh Dela Cruz.
Some of the returning balloons will be “The Boss Baby,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Chase from “Paw Patrol,” the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, Red Titan from “Ryan’s World,” Papa Smurf, Sonic the Hedgehog and SpongeBob SquarePants.
The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands.
Last year, the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan was scrapped to concentrate events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances were pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers were locally based to cut down on travel. The balloons were tethered to specialized vehicles instead of being controlled by handlers.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WPIX contributed to this report.