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Thousands attend Macy's parade

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The Spiderman balloon floats through Times Square during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York

A high-kicking Kung Fu Panda and a diary-toting Wimpy Kid joined the giant balloon line-up as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade unfolded in New York, drawing tens of thousands of spectators to the annual extravaganza.

London tourist Emily Rowlinson took pictures with her mobile phone as the massive Smurf balloon floated past a packed pavement on the Manhattan route. “We don’t have anything like this in England,” she said. “We have parades. We don’t have any sort of huge, floating beasts. It’s very cool.”

As millions more watched the live broadcast on television, revellers gathered nationwide for other parades in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Entertainers in New York included Kanye West, Gladys Knight and Colombian rocker Juanes. The Broadway casts of American Idiot and Elf performed, along with marching bands from across the US.

Perched on her father’s shoulders, 16-month-old Stella Laracque wriggled and danced with excitement as SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, Shrek and other figures went past her.

“She doesn’t really know the characters, but she’s loving it,” said her father, Mike Laracque of Manhattan.

Returning balloons included Pillsbury Doughboy and Spider-Man – the last with a new fan in Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said in an interview that he had traditionally favoured Snoopy but after the Marvel Entertainment character was involved in a recent event promoting city services for job-seekers, “Spidey is my new favourite.”

The Macy’s parade started in 1924 when employees from the department store marched in costume from Harlem to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street. The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 because rubber and helium were needed for the Second World War, making Thursday’s parade the 84th.

The parade followed the route it inaugurated last year, starting on Central Park West and proceeding down Seventh and Sixth Avenues to 34th Street. The route had to be changed when vehicles were banned from parts of Broadway.

Workers removed street lights and traffic lights to make way for the massive balloons and were standing by to replace the equipment.

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