NEW YORK (AP) – Giant balloons hovered again through miles of Manhattan, quarreled by costumed traders. High school and college marching bands from across the country were back, and so were the crowds at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
After being pressured by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the holiday tradition returned in full Thursday, albeit with precautions.
“It really made Thanksgiving feel very festive and full of life,” said Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old assistant to the interior design company, after seeing the show in a turkey-shaped hat.
Thousands of marchers, hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats – and of course Santa Claus – marked the recent 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 in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
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.
“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.
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. There were no inoculation requirements for spectators, but Macy’s and the city encouraged them to cover their faces.
Asahi Pompey said she made a lot of effort to get her vaccine booster shot on Wednesday and wore a mask while she was in the crowd, but COVID-19 worries could not keep her away.
‘It feels really phenomenal to be here. It feels like New York is on the road to recovery, ”said Pompey, 49, a lawyer.
“It’s as if the whole spirit of New York has come and come together so we can be together,” added her school-age son, Sebastian Pompey-Schoelkopf.
Last Thanksgiving, without vaccines available, and the virus began a winter rise in the country’s largest city, was the parade limited to one block and sometimes pre-wallpaper. Most artists were locally based to cut back on travel, and the giant balloons were tied to vehicles instead of being handled by volunteers. No spectators were allowed.
Getting to see the nearly century-old parade this year on the streets, instead of a screen, was “incredible” for Katie Koth. The 26-year-old teacher was at the event for the first time.
“The energy is crazy and the audience was amazing,” she said.
The event came a few days after an SUV driver plowed through a Christmas parade in the suburb of Milwaukee, killed six people and wounded over 60. Authorities said the driver, who has been charged with premeditated murder, hurried away from the police after a domestic dispute.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that there was no credible, specific threat to the Thanksgiving parade, but security was extensive, as usual. It involved thousands of police officers, as well as sand-filled garbage trucks and concrete barriers blocking cars from the parade route, bomb-detecting dogs, heavy weapons, radiation and chemical sensors and over 300 additional cameras.
Inside the barricades, new balloon giants joined the line-up, including 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 came from devices ranging from spice maker Heinz to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service to the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Entertainers and celebrities included 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.
Sloan Brown, 6, took it all in from a sidewalk and summed up the experience in one word: “Cool.”