Kathleen McFadden

It isn’t often that New York City shuts down its busy Herald Square area by Broadway and 34th Street, but every year in late November, an exception is made.

This exception is the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and this year marks the parade’s 82nd march through the streets of Manhattan.

Rain or shine, three million people eagerly wait each year to gain a seat along the parade route through New York City’s Manhattan area.

For those who do not go to the Big Apple for the parade, there are televised broadcasts showcasing all of the balloons, floats and performances.

Since 1979, these broadcasts have earned nine Emmys.

Over 44 million people tune into parade coverage on Thanksgiving morning, wanting to be part of the tradition and see what’s new in the parade.

This Thanksgiving, the parade kicks off as usual at 9 a.m. and lasts for approximately three hours.

Although its premiere in 1924 showcased animals from the Central Park Zoo, the parade this year will entertain with 14 giant balloons, 19 novelty balloons, 13 floats, 10 marching bands, 21 clowns, 17 talent performances, 10 specialty unit appearances and nine performance groups.

Many of the giant and novelty balloons will be ones from previous years.

Balloons from recent years include Abby Cadabby, Dora the Explorer, the Energizer Bunny, Hello Kitty, Kermit the Frog, Shrek, Spongebob Squarepants and Pikachu.

Older balloons include Beethoven the Dog, Ronald McDonald and Snoopy as the Flying Ace.

Snoopy has made the most parade appearances, with the sixth version of the “Peanuts” character being the Flying Ace.

Some new balloons are Buzz Lightyear, Horton the Elephant, and a Smurf.

Classic novelty balloons in the lineup include Beach Ball Cluster, Candy Cane and Gold Macy’s Stars.

All of the helium balloons will be inflated the day before the parade on 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

Public viewing of these preparations will occur from 3-10 p.m. on Nov. 26.

In addition to the giant helium balloons, the floats are also a classic item in this event.

Some of this year’s 13 floats include Disney’s Bolt, Build-a-Bear, Care Bears’ Winter Wonderland, Meaning of Thanksgiving and Shine On.

Floats were first used in the parade in 1969 and are still made in the same location: the Parade Studio.

A former Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken, N.J., the Parade Studio lies across the Hudson River.

The floats are folded and transported through the Holland Tunnel to New York City on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Musical entertainment will come from marching bands across the country, representing the states of Arizona, California, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

The marching bands are mostly from high schools and universities.

Some of these bands include the James Madison University Marching Band and Macy’s Great American Marching Band.

Marching bands are not the only form of musical entertainment this Thanksgiving. Musical guests Andy Williams, David Archuleta, James Taylor, Miley Cyrus, Push Play and Trace Adkins are only a few of the 17 performers set to enhance the parade line-up.

Other performances include popular dancers Harajuku Girls, Kermit the Frog, Santa and Mrs. Clause, the cast of “Sesame Street,” Uno the Westminster show dog, as well as many others.

Nine performance groups are also set to broaden the parade’s entertainment spectrum.

These performance groups consist of dancers, drill teams, color guards and twirlers.

Some of these groups include Fred Hill Brief Case Drill Team, Heartbeat Jump Rope Team, Polynesian Dance Ensemble from Hawaii, the Special Needs Colorguard of America and U.S. Twirling All-Stars.

Speciality units will be joining the balloons, floats and performers in the festive streets of Manhattan.

Ten specialty units are set to appear, including Ronald McDonald’s Big Red Shoe Car, George Washington on horseback, Harajuku Girls Balloonheads, Planter’s Nut Mobile and the NYPD Mounted Unit.

As if all of these events were not enough, there will also be 21 clowns marching with the performers throughout the parade.

All of the parade events and performances will be televised on NBC starting at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

For those going into Manhattan to be part of the festivities, Macy’s recommends the area between 61st and 72nd Streets on Central Park West as the best viewing location.

No tickets are sold, so it’s a first-come, first-served basis, and patrons arrive as early at 6:30 a.m.

Wherever viewed, the 82nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade exemplifies “the magic of Macy’s” through its entertainment, tradition and ability to march us all into the holiday spirit.