SLIDESHOW: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
By Gabriela Resto-Montero, Yepoka Yeebo, Della Hasselle and Nicole Bode
MANHATTAN — Throngs of eager parade-goers lined up from Central Park West to Herald Square early Thursday to catch a glimpse of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The 84th annual parade features the traditional collection of beloved massive inflated balloons — including old favorites like Snoopy as well as new characters like DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda — as well as real-life stars like rapper Kanye West, Jessica Simpson, Gladys Knight and Kylie Minogue.
“I’m freezing but it’s so worth it," said Clarissa Kelly, 14, of Brooklyn, who said her favorite sighting was boy band Big Time Rush.
"I was shocked because I never thought I would actually see them in person,” Kelly said.
Nashville native Cynthia Kirk said she didn't recognize most of the up-and-coming stars, but she was happy to have seen R&B legend Gladys Knight.
I don’t know who some of these people are," said Kirk, 49. "I just saw Gladys Knight, that’s such a thrill. She’s old school, I’m old-school."
Emmanuel Gause, 10, of Brooklyn, said he didn’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn for a good spot on the parade route as long as he had a clear view of his favorite star, Victoria Justice from the Nickelodeon show "Victorius," who's one of many kid-friendly stars set to appear in this year's parade.
“I just wanted to see it. This is my first time,” said Emmanuel Gause, who started waiting for the parade at 5:30 a.m. with his mom, Hope, at West 35th Street and 6th Avenue.
The balloons earned the loudest cheers, and some fans started chanting "SpongeBob SquarePants!" as the inflated Nickelodeon character passed through Midtown.
Spectators bundled up against the cold and kept the coffee and hot chocolate flowing to stay warm despite chilly temperatures and the threat of rain.
"I'm cold, we've been here hours," complained Noah Stern, 6, of SoHo, whose mother Rachel corrected him, saying they'd only been there a half-hour.
But Noah perked up quickly and started cheering when the balloon handlers hoisted up Snoopy, saying "He's so big! Look at all the people holding on."
K'Lynn Trevino, 18, from Houston, TX, shivered in her hooded I Love NY sweatshirt, but said she wasn't going anywhere.
“This is crazy, but we’re getting used to it,” Trevino said.
Fourteen-year-old Estelle Low of the Upper West Side said she got a great vantage point from right outside her apartment.
"We start every Thanksgiving at the parade," said Low, "Every year we get the same spot ... I can't imaging the holidays without the parade."
Others hit up the Chock Full O’ Nuts truck doling out free drinks and buttered bagels at West 37th Street and Sixth Avenue.
Helle Hartley said she wasn’t drawn by the floats, the stars, or the balloons – she was there to support her 16-year-old daughter Mia who was marching in the parade.
"It's a huge thing," said Hartley, 46, of Florida, who arrived with her daughter on Sunday, “We were in the parade … in 1986, and we always thought it would be cool for our kids to do it as well."
The parade kicked off at 9 a.m. at Central Park West and West 77th Street, and will wind down to Columbus Circle where it veers east to Seventh Ave. It travels down Seventh Ave until 42nd Street, and makes a few twists down Sixth Avenue until it reaches Herald Square.
This year's parade features more than 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers, 12 marching bands, 15 giant balloons and 27 floats.