Macy’s Thanksgiving parade returns, with all the trimmings

  • The Tom Turkey float moves down Sixth Avenue during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. AP PHOTO

  • People watch as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade passes by, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig

  • The Ada Twist balloon moves down Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. The parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) JEENAH MOON

  • The Toni balloon makes its way down Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. The Thanksgiving parade is the latest U.S. holiday event to make a comeback amid the ongoing pandemic. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) Jeenah Moon

  • New York Police special operations officers stand watch during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) Jeenah Moon

  • People make their way at Times Square after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ

  • People watch as the Smokey Bear balloon passes during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. The parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig

  • The Red Titan ballon makes its way down Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. The Thanksgiving parade is the latest U.S. holiday event to make a comeback amid the ongoing pandemic. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) Jeenah Moon

  • Mickey Guyton rides on a float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) JEENAH MOON

  • Handlers hold tethers as balloons are prepared to go down Central Park West before the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. The parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig

  • Youngsters watch from a window as balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade pass by, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The parade is returning in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig

  • Crews pump helium into a balloon of Pikachu and Eevee in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, as the balloon is readied for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey) Ted Shaffrey

  • Police walk by an inflated helium balloon of Grogu, also known as Baby Yoda, from the Star Wars show The Mandalorian, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in New York, as the balloon is readied for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey) Ted Shaffrey

  • Balloon handlers pull Smokey the Bear through the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday in New York. AP PHOTO

  • Jon Batiste rides on a float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) JEENAH MOON

  • Carolers wave at spectators as they ride down Sixth Avenue in the Macy's Singing Christmas Tree float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) Eduardo Munoz Avarez

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    The Greg Heffley "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" balloon floats past Radio City Music Hall during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) Eduardo Munoz Avarez

  • Aespa ride on a float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) JEENAH MOON

  • NYPD officers stand guard next to Radio City Music Hall as people try to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) Eduardo Munoz Avarez

  • Nelly, center, rides on a float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade returned in full, after being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon) JEENAH MOON

Published: 11/25/2021 10:28:10 PM

NEW YORK — Giant balloons once again wafted through miles of Manhattan, wrangled by costumed handlers. High school and college marching bands from around the country were back, and so were the crowds at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

After being crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the holiday tradition returned in full Thursday, though with precautions.

“It really made Thanksgiving feel very festive and full of life,” Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old interior design firm assistant, said after watching the spectacle in a turkey-shaped hat.

Thousands of marchers, hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats — and, of course, Santa Claus — marked the latest U.S. holiday event to make a comeback as vaccines, familiarity and sheer frustration made officials and some of the public more comfortable with big gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.

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

“After two years, we’re back. America is back. There’s nothing we’re unable to overcome,” Biden said over the phone from Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he was watching the broadcast with his family.

Still, safety measures continued. Parade staffers and volunteers had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks, though some singers and performers were allowed to shed them. There was no inoculation requirement for spectators, but Macy’s and the city encouraged them to cover their faces.

Asahi Pompey said she made a point of getting her vaccine booster shot Wednesday and wore a mask while in the crowd, but COVID-19 concerns couldn’t keep her away.

“It feels really phenomenal to be here. It feels like New York is on its way to recovery,” said Pompey, 49, a lawyer.

“It’s like the whole spirit of New York has come and gathered so we can be together,” added her school-age son, Sebastian Pompey-Schoelkopf.

Last Thanksgiving, with no vaccines available and the virus beginning a winter surge in the nation’s biggest city, the parade was confined to one block and sometimes pre-taped.

Most performers were locally based, to cut down on travel, and the giant balloons were tethered to vehicles instead of being handled by volunteers. No spectators were allowed.

New balloon giants joined the lineup, including the title character from the Netflix series “Ada Twist, Scientist”; the Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee on a sled (Pikachu has appeared before, in different form), and Grogu, aka “Baby Yoda,” from the television show “The Mandalorian.”

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

Sloan Brown, 6, took it all in from a sidewalk and summed up the experience in a word: “Cool.”


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