‘Blue’s Clues’ hosts reunite, Harry Connick Jr.’s ‘scary’ bald cap

NEW YORK – Shrunken by the coronavirus pandemic last year, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returned Thursday in its entirety, albeit with precautions.

Balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns and artists – and of course Santa Claus – once again wandered through 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) of Manhattan streets, instead of being confined to a block or sometimes pre-recorded last years.

Spectators, closed out in 2020, stood again along the route. High school and college march bands from across the country were invited back to the lineup; most of last year’s artists were locally based to cut back on travel. The giant balloons, tied to vehicles last year, got their disguised drivers back. And celebrities were in tow.

One of the most memorable guest appearances came from “Blue’s Clues” hosts Steve Burns, Donovan Patton and Joshua Dela Cruz, who got the range back together.

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The Tom Turkey floater moves down Sixth Avenue during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, November 25, 2021. The parade returns in full force, after being pressured by the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The Tom Turkey floater moves down Sixth Avenue during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, November 25, 2021. The parade returns in full force, after being pressured by the coronavirus pandemic last year.

‘Blue’s Clues’ hosts reunite on float: Steve Burns says it ‘feels like yesterday’ he was on show

Nearly 20 years after the original “Blue’s Clues” host abruptly left the children’s show to go to college, Burns returned with host colleagues Patton and Dela Cruz for a reunion that made many fans emotional.

Burns, Patton and Delal Cruz performed “You Can’t Spell Blue Without You” together at this year’s “Blue’s Clues”, which has been part of the festival since 1999, according to parade host Savannah Guthrie.

“It feels like yesterday you asked us to play. Stopped shirt, notebook, but that was not all that was needed. Through the seasons, through the years. There’s a reason we’re still here.” trio song to celebrate the generations of fans who supported the series for the past 25 years.

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“Loved watching our entire #BluesCluesAndYou family get together for #MacysParade,” tweeted Nickelodeon, the show’s network “Anyone else suddenly getting really emotional?”

Someone definitely cut onions in the Twitter verse.

“Seeing Steve on The Blue’s Clues Float has made my vacation complete,” @Jaclyn Cangro tweeted. User @ Mswat94 added: “NOT ME WHO BEARS OVER THE BLOW LEADER, CREAMS AND PERFORMANCE IN #MacysParade

Burns hosted the show from 1996 to 2002 and was closely associated with its success in catering to preschoolers. He was replaced by Donovan Patton as Steve’s younger brother “Joe” from 2004 to 2007. Dela Cruz hosted the revival “Blue’s Clues & You!” since 2019.

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Steve Burns, left, Donovan Patton, center, and Joshua Dela Cruz, stand on the Blues Clues float ahead of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 25, 2021 in New York.

Steve Burns, left, Donovan Patton, center, and Joshua Dela Cruz, stand on the Blues Clues float ahead of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 25, 2021 in New York.

President Biden calls Al Roker: ‘America is back’

For President Joe Biden, the parade’s full return was a sign of renewal, and he called NBC broadcaster Al Roker on the air to say so.

“Oh my god, look who’s calling,” the “Today” host said, showing the president’s face appearing on his phone.

“After two years, we are back. America is back. There is nothing we are not able to overcome, ”Biden said over the phone from Nantucket, Massachusetts, watching the broadcast with his family.

Roker replied, “Thank you very much. I hope you will continue to watch the parade. Santa Claus is coming. Santa Claus is coming, Mr. President!”

“I’m waiting for Santa,” Biden replied.

Al Roker attends the 95th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

Al Roker attends the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell shared a photo of the sweet encounter on Twitter. The picture shows the first couple smiling in front of the television as they lean into a cell phone that Biden is holding.

Harry Connick Jr. looks unrecognizable as Daddy Warbucks from ‘Annie Live!’

Daddy Warbucks is in the house.

Connick Jr. appeared for the first time as Daddy Warbucks at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this Thursday with “Annie Live!” co-star Celina Smith. The duo sang “I Don’t Need Anything But You” after climbing out of an old school car.

His characteristic hair was nowhere in sight. Connick Jr. wore an all-white suit and a bald cap that seemed to catch people’s eyes. Apparently not in the good way.

“Harry Connick Jr. plays Jeff Bezos in the TV version of ‘Annie’,” @JoePontillo tweeted. User @ Donewitheveryt6 added, “Is it just me, or is Harry Connick Jr. in a bald cap the scariest thing ever?”

“Annie Live!” airs Dec. 2 on NBC at 20.00 EST.

Precautions in place: Vaccine mandate, masking

The Thanksgiving parade is the latest American holiday event to make a comeback, as vaccines, confidentiality and sheer frustration made officials and some of the public more comfortable with large gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.

Nevertheless, the security measures continued. Parade staff and volunteers had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks, although some singers and performers were allowed to throw them away. There were no inoculation requirements for spectators, but Macy’s and the city encouraged them to cover their faces. A popular pre-parade spectacle – the inflation of the giant balloons – was limited to vaccinated viewers.

Santa's waving from the top of a float along 6th Ave.  during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 25, 2021 in New York.

Santa’s waving from the top of a float along 6th Ave. during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, November 25, 2021 in New York.

Large police presence after Christmas parade tragedy

The Thanksgiving event also came days after an SUV driver plowed through a Christmas parade in the suburb of Milwaukee, killing six people and injuring over 60. Authorities said the driver, who has been charged with premeditated murder, hurried away from police after a domestic strife.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that there was no credible, specific threat to the Thanksgiving parade, but New York Police Department security measures would be comprehensive, as usual.

“I’m very sure what the NYPD has prepared to keep everyone safe,” he said.

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NYPD officers patrol during the 95th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

NYPD officers patrol during the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

Thousands of police officers were assigned to the parade route, from streets to rooftops. Cars were blocked from the parade route with sand-filled garbage trucks, other heavy vehicles and approximately 360,000 pounds (163,000 kg) of concrete barriers.

Bomb detection dogs, bomb squad officers, heavy weapons teams, radiation and chemical sensors and over 300 additional cameras were also sent to the parade route, said NYPD’s head of counter-terrorism Martine Materasso.

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Inside the barricades, the parade featured about 8,000 participants, four dozen balloons of varying sizes and two dozen floats.

A float that imagines

A float depicting “Grogu” moves down Central Park West during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, November 25, 2021. The parade returns in its entirety, after being pressured by the coronavirus pandemic last year.

New ‘Baby Yoda’ floats, more star appearances

New balloon giants joining the ranks include the title character from the Netflix series “Ada Twist, Scientist”; The Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee on a sleigh (Pikachu has appeared before, in other forms), and Grogu, also known as “Baby Yoda”, from the TV show “The Mandalorian”. New floats come from devices ranging from spice maker Heinz to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service to the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Entertainers and celebrities include Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Miss America Camille Schrier, the band Foreigner and many others. Several musical cast from Broadway and Radio City Rockettes also performed.

Starring: Associated Press

Jon Batiste attends the 95th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

Jon Batiste attends the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2021 in New York City.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2021 returns to its pre-pandemic form. Here’s what you need to know

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Macy’s Thanksgiving parade: ‘Blue’s Clues’ hosts reunite, more moments

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