Festive Thanksgiving Day Parade heads through NYC

MANHATTAN - A festive mood prevailed today as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the crowded streets of Manhattan beneath brilliant sunshine. A jetpack-wearing monkey and a freakish creation from filmmakerTim Burton are two of the big new balloons that made theirinaugural appearances. Paul Frank's Julius and Burton's B. joinedmore than a dozen other giant balloons, including fan favoriteslike Snoopy and Spider-Man. In all, the parade featured more than 40 balloon creations, 27floats, 800 clowns and 1,600 cheerleaders. The star power included Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne and the Muppets of Sesame Street. Some performances were at a stage at the end of the route in Herald Square; others were on floats.

Macy's predicted 3.5 million people could crowd the paraderoute, while an additional 50 million watched from home.

The parade started at 77th Street and headed south on Central ParkWest to Seventh Avenue, before moving to Sixth Avenue and ending atMacy's Herald Square.The parade got its start in 1924 and included live animals suchas camels, goats and elephants. It was not until 1927 that the liveanimals were replaced by giant helium balloons. The parade wassuspended from 1942 to 1944 because rubber and helium were neededfor World War II. Since the beginning, the balloons have been based on popularcultural characters and holiday themes. Returning favorites thisyear include Buzz Lightyear, Clumsy Smurf, SpongeBob SquarePantsand Kermit the Frog. Also making their first appearances at this year's parade are apair of bike-powered balloons, one featuring a bulldog characterand an elf balloon designed by Queens resident Keith Lapinig, whowon a nationwide contest.All the balloons are created at Macy's Parade Studio, and eachundergoes testing for flight patterns, aerodynamics, buoyancy andlift.

AP contributed to this report.

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