This story was reported and written by Jesse Coburn, Michael O'Keeffe and Antonio Planas.
New Yorkers may have mostly stayed home Thursday, but tourists and visitors bundled up to watch the iconic cartoon character balloons, floats and marching bands in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan.
The parade worked its way south to Herald Square from Central Park in temperatures hovering around 20 degrees under sunny skies. Manageable winds negated concerns earlier in the week that the largest balloons would have to be grounded because of high-speed gusts.
The January-like temperatures did not deter the Dahl family, who traveled from Philadelphia for their annual tradition of watching the parade.
“I think you do crazier things as a tourist than you do as a local,” Cynthia Dahl said as she and her two sons huddled along the parade route before the event began.
So devoted are the Dahls to the parade that they went to see the balloons outside the American Museum of Natural History, where they are inflated, on Wednesday night just in case strong winds grounded them Thursday.
Even in the cold, New York City on Thanksgiving held more appeal than Philadelphia, the Dahls said.
“Your parade is better,” Cynthia Dahl said.
Thursday marked Pam Alvarado’s first time seeing the parade in person after years of watching it on television from her home in Southern California.
“It’s so cold there’s not as many people as there otherwise would be,” said Alvarado, 65, of Yucaipa, California. “This is freezing."
But on her first trip to New York City, she was not going to miss the parade, she said as she recorded a video on her phone of a balloon floating down Sixth Avenue.
“I can’t go back to Southern California and say I didn’t see the parade," Alvarado said.
Ivana Baez, 29, of Harlem, also watched the parade live for the first time on Thursday. She stood at 71st Street and Central Park West with her son, Lucas, 5, and her husband, Emil Fernandez, 26.
“So far, so good. It’s freezing, though,” Baez said, adding next time she'd know to bring even more warm clothes.
“I just bought hand warmers. I’m bringing more of them, double socks" next time, she said. "I will know what to expect.”
Shelly Smalls, visiting from the Washington, D.C., area, was also at her first Macy's parade, happy to check the event off her “bucket list.”
“To see it in person, having watched it on television, it’s a little more real. It’s good to actually be here,” Smalls said.
The weather was daunting for members of the Bateman family of Tifton, Georgia, who held hand warmers in their bare hands.
But like others, Jarrod Bateman, 27, was resolute.
“The cold couldn’t stop me,” he said.
Yasin Samad, 57, of Brooklyn, sold hats resembling just-out-of-the-oven turkeys on the Upper West Side. He was down to his last dozen or so hats, which he was selling for $10, by the end of the parade.
“People love them,” Samad said. “Even though it’s the coldest day of the year, it’s a blessing to be out here. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Sumeed Vibhute was one of the few spectators not dressed for winter.
The 26-year-old software engineer from Walden, New York, who said he was at the parade for the first time, wore neither a hat nor a scarf.
“I’m originally from India, and it’s usually hot all the time,” he explained. “So I like the cold.”
The NYPD had no reports of arrests or problems related to the parade.
Police officials stationed thousands of officers along the route, including counterterrorism teams, plainclothes officers mixed in with the crowd, radiation detectors and a new squad of K-9 teams that can sniff out explosives from a few hundred feet away.
Intersections were blocked off with barricades that help police control crowds and sanitation trucks filled with sand had been placed at key points along the route to block access.