It was a close call, but the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade got the green light Thursday for the annual trek through the heart of Manhattan, despite record low temperatures and winds close to the danger level for high-flying Charlie Brown and SpongeBob balloons.
The parade, which began in 1924 to promote the venerable department store, features some 8,000 marchers, including high school bands from across the country, and two-dozen floats setting the stage for the arrival of Santa Claus.
Floats, balloons and marchers will wind their way for 46 blocks, from the west side of Central Park to Macy’s flagship store in midtown Manhattan.
Diana Ross, John Legend, Martina McBride and the Muppets from “Sesame Street” were scheduled to perform, despite an extreme cold weather alert for performers and onlookers alike.
A New York City advisory urged anyone going outside to wear hats, scarves, gloves and layered clothing and to keep their fingertips, earlobes and noses covered to prevent frostbite.
The temperature dipped to 20 degrees only a couple of hours before the 9 a.m. EST start, breaking the previous record low for the event of 21 degrees, marked in 1930, 1938 and 1972.
Crews in New York worked to inflate 16 giant helium balloons on Wednesday ahead of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Officials fear high winds expected on Thursday could ground the balloons, or force them to be flown lower. (Nov. 21)
The critical factor for the parade, however, is not the cold but the wind. With 16 helium-filled balloons of animated characters floating at the end of long cables above the parade route, wind can quickly turn the parade into a danger zone.
In 2013, the giant “M&M’s Chocolate Candies” balloon got caught on a street lamp in Times Square, knocking off part of the top. Two sisters were hit by the fallaing debris, with one requiring stitches.
The balloons are grounded if winds are stronger than 23 mph and wind gusts higher than 34 mph. Less than two hours before the parade, the winds were clocking 15 to 20 mph with gusts of 30 mph.
If conditions worsen, police say they are ready to order the balloons to a lower altitude or scrubbed entirely.
Temperatures aside, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said thousands of officers will be stationed along the parade route to keep an eye out for other potential trouble spots. Counterterrorism teams with long guns are on hand, with plainclothes officers mixing into the crowd.
Polish up on your trivia before this iconic kickoff to the holiday season with five facts you might not know about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
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A new squad of K-9 teams that can sniff out explosives from a few hundred feet away will also be surveying the scene.
On the entertainment front, the parade also features Bad Bunny, Kane Brown and Ella Mai, Pentatonix, Rita Ora, Sugarland, Anika Noni Rose, Barenaked Ladies, Leona Lewis, Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, Bazzi, Ashley Tisdale and Carly Pearce.
Contributing: Associated Press
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