Millions of people Thursday lined the route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, many taking a lighthearted break from the stress and devastation of superstorm Sandy.
"We were without power for 11 days. But I did see the best in people," said Cathy Haller-Franco, 54, formerly of Hicksville but now of New Jersey. "I'm thankful for what I have and I think a lot of people are thankful that we still have our health or our homes. We made it through and hopefully we found our strengths in all of this."
"It was on my bucket list and I didn't have to host this year, so I didn't have to cook the turkey," she said.
More than 3 million people attended the parade and another 50 million watched live broadcasts of the famous balloons, which this year included Papa Smurf, Hello Kitty, Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the popular Pillsbury Dough Boy. Performances by Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of The X Factor also were featured.
It was windy before the parade began, with temperatures in the low 40s, and people were appropriately bundled up. But the wind died down just as the music and marching got going.
A new version of Hello Kitty was the first float, looming up over Columbus Circle, followed by two giant pumpkins, prompting some children to ask what it'd be like to make a pie out of pumpkins that big. Then came Kermit the Frog; Charlie Brown; Spider-Man; Julius, the monkey on a jet pack; Pikachu with a Poké Ball and more. There were several turkey floats, one of which bobbed its head and flapped its wings as it rode along. Music occasionally floated up from the marching bands.
The streets that ran into the parade route north of midtown erupted into cheers as the balloons passed. A huge crowd also swarmed the end of the parade route, Herald Square outside the Macy's flagship store.
The weather warmed as the parade drew to a close.
Bernadette Thirlwell of Woodmere has attended the parade for the past 10 years because her sister lives in Manhattan and celebrates the holiday with her. "We got a good view this year," she said. "Last year we were stuck in a crowd and had to walk around like penguins."
But, she added, "The weather is beautiful today, there's no hurricanes about or anything like that . . . I was without power for two weeks. No electricity, no hot water, nothing. But we're alive and well, and we're breathing."
Kevin Currie, 40, who always comes uptown toward the end of the parade route from 10 blocks away where he lives with his family said there were "more people this year, probably because of the weather.
"I was without power for a week," he said. "It's definitely a happy Thanksgiving."
His daughter Emma Currie, 10, said she liked the balloons. "I think they're very cool. I like that one," she said, pointing to Sonic the Hedgehog. "But I wish you could ride them, like a hot-air balloon."
Jessica Frank, of Roosevelt, there with her two young children, ages 3 and 6, said, "It was all right. It was a little nippy, but the kids enjoyed it."