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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marches on despite 'freezing' weather

Officials had worried strong winds would ground the largest balloon characters, but the gusts stayed at manageable levels.

People are bundled up in many different ways,

People are bundled up in many different ways, trying to keep warm before the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on Thursday. Photo Credit: David Handschuh

This story was reported by Jesse Coburn, Michael O'Keeffe and Antonio Planas.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade started marching south in Manhattan Thursday morning under sunny skies and frigid temperatures. 

NYPD officers on motorcycles led the start of the parade and Mary Poppins performed as floats and helium-filled balloons started to move along the 2 1/2-mile route toward Herald Square.

Temperatures hovering around 20 degrees did not deter members of the Dahl family, who traveled from Philadelphia for their annual tradition.

“I think you do crazier things as a tourist than you do as a local,” Cynthia Dahl said as she and her two sons huddled along the parade route before the event began.

So devoted are the Dahls to the parade that they went to see the balloons outside the American Museum of Natural History the night before, just in case strong winds grounded them Thursday.

Cold or not, New York City on Thanksgiving held more appeal than Philadelphia, they said.

“Your parade is better,” Cynthia Dahl said.

Thursday marked Pam Alvarado’s first time seeing the parade in person after years of watching it on television from her home in Southern California.

“It’s so cold there’s not as many people as there otherwise would be,” said Alvarado, 65, of Yucaipa, California. “This is freezing."

But on her first trip to New York City, she was not going to miss the parade, she said as she recorded a video on her phone of a cartoon dog balloon floating down Sixth Avenue.

“I can’t go back to Southern California and say I didn’t see the parade," Alvarado said.

Ivana Baez, 29, of Harlem, also watched the parade live for the first time on Thursday. She stood at 71st Street and Central Park West with her son, Lucas, 5, and her husband, Emil Fernandez, 26.

“So far, so good. It’s freezing, though,” despite her layers of winter clothes, Baez said, adding next time she'd know to bring even more warming clothes.

“I just bought hand warmers. I’m bringing more of them, double socks," she said. For the next time, "I will know what to expect.”

Shelly Smalls, visiting from the Washington D.C. area, also at her first Macy's parade. She said she now can check the iconic event off of her “bucket list.

“To see it in person, having watched it on television, it’s a little more real. It’s good to actually be here,” Smalls said.

Ron Brown, 78, of Boulder, Colorado, who grew up in Yonkers, estimated he was attending his 10th parade. But it was the first with his new wife of three months and their four grandchildren ranging in ages from 5 to 21. He said this was the coldest parade he’s ever been to, but he’s thankful for the joy he’s seeing on his grandchildren’s faces.

“It’s about family,” Brown said. “Just seeing the grandkids, even the 21-year-old grandkid got a kick out of this stuff.” 

The NYPD has thousands of officers stationed along the route. They include counterterrorism teams, plainclothes officers mixed in with the crowd and a new squad of K-9 teams that can sniff out explosives from a few hundred feet away.

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