- Associated Press - Thursday, November 24, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Spectators cheered and sang on Thursday as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the crowded streets of Manhattan beneath brilliant sunshine.

A jetpack-wearing monkey and a freakish creation from filmmaker Tim Burton were two of the big new balloons that made their inaugural appearances. Paul Frank’s Julius and Burton’s B. joined more than a dozen other giant balloons, including fan favorites like Snoopy and Spider-Man.

“Here comes Snoopy!” said an excited Regan Lynch, 5, nudging her grandfather, Nick Pagnozzi.

Pagnozzi, 59, of Saddle River, N.J., drove into the city at 6 a.m. to get a seat on the bleachers along Central Park West. He said Regan wanted to make sure he took pictures of every balloon.

In all, the parade featured more than 40 balloon creations, 27 floats, 800 clowns and 1,600 cheerleaders. Star appearances included Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, Avril Lavigne and the Muppets of Sesame Street. Some performances were at a stage at the end of the route in Herald Square; others were on floats.

“I feel like a kid all over, man, you know?” said Green, who rode a float featuring young hockey players.

In the crowd along Seventh Avenue, tourist Wilfred Denk of Munich, Germany, said he was most impressed by the high school marching bands. The procession featured bands from as far away as Hawaii.

“Those kids, they play good music and they really put on a good show,” Denk said. He and his wife, Bethina, were on their honeymoon in New York.

Suddenly, a float bearing a replica of Mount Rushmore came into view. “Look, Neil Diamond!” said Bethina Denk.

The crowd started singing “Sweet Caroline! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” as Diamond waved from a platform in front of the Mount Rushmore heads.

Near the beginning of the route, Conor Jones, 5, of the Bronx, ducked as a troupe of clowns dressed as firefighters doused the crowd with multicolored confetti. He and his twin brother, Nolan, have attended the parade three years in a row.

“I like the bands best,” he said. His brother preferred the Spider-Man balloon.

Dozens of handlers got revved up with a cheer heralding their cartoon balloon character: “Buzz! Lightyear! Buzz! Lightyear!”

Nearby, balloon handler Joe Sullivan, a retired banker, held one of six nylon lines securing a huge floating pumpkin. He’s been volunteering in the parade for more than 15 years.

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