By Yepoka Yeebo and Della Hasselle
MANHATTAN — Thrilled Thanksgiving Day Parade fans watched Snoopy, Hello Kitty and a massive Kung Fu Panda take shape on the Upper West Side Wednesday as workers inflated the huge balloons in preparation for the 84th annual parade.
"It's really fabulous. It's incredible to see them," Conn. resident Velva Kastel, 55, said Wednesday. "There's nothing like it. Everyone should come see the parade and the balloons at least once, because it's such a different perspective than on TV."
The kids lining up to watch the inflation of the balloons agreed.
"I love them because they're awesome," said Graham Yuchas, 6, adding that his favorite balloon was one of the Pokemon characters.
New balloons, like the 7th grader Greg Heffley from children's book "The Dairy of a Wimpy Kid," Kung Fu Panda and artist Takashi Murakami's Kaikai and Kiki characters join old favorites like the Pillsbury Doughboy and Kermit the Frog.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told DNAinfo that his favorite was Snoopy.
The colorful floats took over 79th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue Wednesday afternoon and into the night.
John Piper, vice president of Macy's Parade Studio, said workers had to carefully inflate each section of each balloon in a precise order to make sure the pressure was right.
"Take Kung Fu Panda, he's a little bigger than most of the other balloons," said Piper. "His ears are separate chambers, as are his feet, legs and arms. His body is one very big chamber."
Tomorrow, 3.5 million people are expected to line the parade route from the Upper West Side, through midtown and Times Square.
"It's amazing," said Upper West Side resident Chandra Bailey, who was there with he 3 1/2-year-old-son B.J. "It really brings you back to your childhood."
B.J. was especially excited because this was the first year he wasn't afraid of the balloons.
"Kermit...he's a frog, and he's smiling. He's happy because I'm here!" B.J. said, wiggling in anticipation.
Although some spectators were watching the inflation of the balloons for the first time, others have been going for over ten years, and plan to continue the tradition.
"I'll keep going 'till I can't go anymore," said Bronx resident Kaim Simmons, 22, who was already dressed as a Smurf in preparation for Thursday's festivities.
"You can't have Thanksgiving without the parade. And what better way to have it than with these balloons?"
Parade organizer Orlando Veras said parade watchers should pick spots along the parade route that best fit their schedules. Central Park West for people who want to be done by 10:30, Herald Square — the end of the parade — for spectators who don't mind waiting.
"There are great views at Central Park West, Columbus Circle and Times Square," said Veras.