Workers inflate a balloon of the Dragonball character Goku as the balloon is readied for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. AP
Millions of spectators are expected to line the streets of New York on Thursday to kick off the holiday season with the traditional Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which features balloons, musical performances and the arrival of Santa Claus. Helium Balloon
Organisers were making final preparations on Wednesday for the parade, now in its 96th year, to roll down the streets of Manhattan, past the shopping chain's flagship location in Herald Square. The annual festivities will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 9am EST.
On Wednesday afternoon, about 100 volunteers gathered to inflate the high-flying balloons such as Bluey, the Australian cattle pup, and Stuart, the one-eyed Minion, pumping them full of helium with giant hoses.
An NYPD police canine guards members of the Macy's Inflation Team. AFP
Macy's says that the Stuart balloon will feature him holding an animated man in a banana suit, which is 3D-printed, making it the first ever Macy's Parade balloon to use an object created by a 3D printer.
This year's parade will feature 15 other giant character balloons, 28 floats, 40 novelty and heritage inflatables, 12 marching bands, 700 clowns, 10 performance groups and, of course, Santa Claus, who rides in at the very end of the celebration.
The Macy's parade is a traditional holiday season kickoff, with spectators often lining up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer the marchers, floats, entertainers and marching bands from all across the country.
This year, a marching band from Veracruz, Mexico, will be included among bands from California to Texas and Florida, among several other states.
In between bands and parade floats, well-known stars and guests such as Gloria Estefan, Ziggy Marley, Joss Stone and Jordin Sparks will make appearances.
The shrink ray is still broken. In unrelated news, the Minions will be joining the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! #MacysParade @Macys pic.twitter.com/3itMSwfzNp
Inflation is done carefully and piece by piece with every balloon to prevent damage, but that has not always been the case.
Moving large parade balloons is a treacherous endeavour, with the most recent incident involving an inflated Spider-Man crashing into a tree in 2013, ripping its arm apart.
The Kermit balloon also collided with a tree in the 1991 parade, deflating the puppet's head, prompting one commentator to quip: “It's not easy being green.”
The Muppet did not return to the party until 2002.
A Superman balloon in 1985 also had its arm ripped off when it got caught on a tree branch.
In the 1957 parade, Popeye drenched parade onlookers when rainwater from its inflated hat spilt on to crowds when the balloon swayed to the side due to wind.
A Mighty Mouse balloon in 1956 hit a street sign and broke apart, landing on the ground.
And given the recent spate of mass shootings across the country, security and safety are of the utmost concern.
“In light of recent events, specifically the shooting in the nightclub in Colorado Springs and the arrest of two individuals for posting threatening statements online to Jewish targets, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau will deploy additional resources to ensure the festivities across the city are safe for all,” the city's Counter-Terrorism Bureau chief Martine Materasso said at a press conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Suppliers Confetti Balloon The shrink ray is still broken. In unrelated news, the Minions will be joining the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! #MacysParade @Macys pic.twitter.com/3itMSwfzNp