Balloons, bands, celebrities and Santa: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off


NEW YORK (AP) — Beloved characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants will take to the skies above New York City Thursday while bands march along the streets below as the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushers in the holiday season.

The parade starts on Manhattan’s upper west side and makes its way alongside Central Park in front of big crowds and a national television audience before ending up in front of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street.

Among the big names performing is Cher, who just released her first Christmas album. The Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winner has a prime spot — performing just before the arrival of Santa Claus, which marks the end of the parade.

Other celebrities and musical groups taking part include Jon Batiste, Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Jessie James Decker, Pentatonix and Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke. The parade also includes performances from the casts of some Broadway shows.

New balloons debuting this year include Leo the lizard, a character from a Netflix film, who is more than 40 feet (12.5 meters) tall, as well as ones that have been there before — like SpongeBob, coming in at 44 feet (13.4 meters).

Some characters, like Snoopy, have been in the parade for many years, but this year’s balloon is a new Beagle Scout Snoopy version — celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first appearance in the Peanuts comics.

It’s “going to be a magical experience, an experience full of spectacle, full of entertainment, full of joy, full of celebration,” said Will Coss, executive producer of the parade.

The parade isn’t just about what’s going on in the skies, though. At street level, the procession includes more than two dozen floats, interspersed with marching bands from around the country and a number of clown crews among the 8,000 people participating, organizers said.

This will be the 97th time the parade has been held since 1924.

The broadcast is hosted by Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker from “Today” and airs on NBC.

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