By Ben Fractenberg, Della Hasselle and Tom Liddy
MANHATTAN — Throngs of parents, children and other passersby flocked to the Upper West Side Wednesday afternoon to see a mix of cartoon characters and superheroes become larger-than-life as giant balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"It's my dream to touch one of the balloons," said 11-year-old Dean, who goes to M.S. 104 in Gramercy. "It's amazing."
The boy was among throngs who packed 77th and 81st streets, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue to see Snoopy, Kung Fu Panda, Kermit, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Energizer Bunny and other massive balloons inflated.
Suzanne Lindhberg, 47, has been bringing her family to the annual event for the past five years, but was especially excited this time around to see the new Tim Burton character B. Boy, who is making his debut this year.
"What's exciting this year is the Tim Burton [balloon]," said Lindbergh, 47, of the Financial District.
"We come every year. We learned to get here early to see the balloons."
And for Kristina Durkim, 19, a college student from Long Island, the draw was Spider-Man.
"My dad's a big Spider-Man fan, so that's a big one for us," she said.
More than 3.5 million paradegoers are expected to jam the route Thursday from the Upper West Side through Times Square and Midtown.
Another onlooker said the experience of seeing the balloons take shape in person was much better than watching at home.
"It's spectacular. It blows you away," said Brittany Mench, 23, who was visiting from California for the holiday. "You can't really tell how big they look on TV."
Linda Dodge, 52, was visiting from Chicago with her family.
"It's a lot of fun. Every year they're different," said Dodge, 52, who was visiting her home state from with her husband and 5-year-old son. "And we get to see them blown up."
"Snoopy!" her son, Jimmy, replied when asked what balloon he was most excited about seeing.