MIDTOWN — Giant balloons took flight and marching bands and floats made their way through Manhattan Thursday for the 88th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The parade kicked off in front of thousands of spectators at 9 a.m. at West 77th Street and Central Park West, with a route that turns east at West 59th Street, then south along Sixth Avenue to Herald Square.
The parade's iconic balloons this year included characters such as Spider-Man, Papa Smurf, and Toothless the Dragon. On Wednesday, families braved the cold rain to watch the characters inflate outside the Museum of Natural History.
Ken Stagnari, a 36-year-old banker, and his daughter Fiorella, 4, waved at a balloon as it passed by. They pair drove from Syracuse to see the parade for the first time.
"I was surprised to see how easy it was to get a spot," he said. "We got here around 7 a.m., got breakfast quickly and came here. It's great to see everybody together."
Ken Schadt, 54, has been coming to the parade from his home in Rochester, NY, since the 1990s. On Thursday, he was wearing a stuffed reindeer hat.
"I always wear something silly," he said. "It's fun. It's part of the tradition."
A group of activists planned on disrupting the parade with a flash mob, according to a Facebook post, and had gathered outside of the New York Public Library to protest the recent Ferguson, MO, grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
At least five protesters were seen being loaded into a NYPD van in handcuffs just before 10 a.m. at West 37th Street and Sixth Avenue as parade-goers looked on.
An officer on the scene said the protestors were trying to block the parade route. An NYPD spokeswoman confirmed that seven people had been arrested for trying to disrupt the parade, and charged with disorderly conduct.
Riley Ruiz, 23, a protestor from Harlem, said that the demonstration's original goal was to disrupt the parade.
"There is nothing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving when killer cops are walking free," she said.
By noon, a group of about 40 demonstrators were still marching near the parade.
The protests did little to disrupt spectators' enjoyment of the event. Sierra Holmes, 16, came to the parade from Montclair, N.J. with her family and said it was a great experience.
"I get that people are angry and I'm not saying we should forget [about Michael Brown]," she said. "But that should not stop the parade. It is a tradition. It's Thanksgiving. Everyone should enjoy the day."