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Despite cold, balloons fly at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: The SpongeBob SquarePants balloon floats along the parade route during the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
The SpongeBob SquarePants balloon floated along the parade route during the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

NEW YORK — SpongeBob, Charlie Brown and other giant balloons were cleared for takeoff just before a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that began amid blustery winds and some of the coldest temperatures in the event’s history.

The 21 degrees at the start made it one of the coldest Thanksgivings in the city in decades. Forecasts called for sustained winds of up to 20 mph and gusts to 30 mph. City officials let the balloons go up, though their height was noticeably lower.

Some of the balloons were flying just a few feet above the people who were holding their tethers. The outstretched hand of the ‘‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’’ balloon appeared to hit some of his handlers on their wool cap-covered heads.

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Bystanders refused to let cold temperatures put a damper on watching the parade, breaking out the blankets and sleeping bags to watch the giant balloons go by.

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Tony Stout camped out with his extended family since 2 a.m. to make sure they got a good view of his son, who was in the parade with The Ohio State University marching band. They traveled from Columbus, Ohio, for the parade.

‘‘Ohhh, I’m freezing and numb, but excited,’’ he said.

Dylan Mahoney, who has come to the parade every year for the last dozen years, said he stayed warm by layering, including several pairs of socks.

‘‘It’s one of the coldest,’’ he said, but ‘‘we’ve watched in the rain before.’’

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He said he loves the tradition of attending the parade, driving from Leonia, New Jersey, in the early hours to see the bands and balloons and racing for a good spot.

Diana Ross, John Legend, Martina McBride and the Muppets from ‘‘Sesame Street’’ were slated to perform in the frigid cold.

Thursday has the potential to be New York City’s coldest Thanksgiving since 1901, when the temperature only got as high as 26 degrees. The coldest on record was in 1871, when the warmest it got was 22 degrees.

The Macy’s parade didn’t start until 1924.

New York City has issued an extreme cold weather alert and is urging anyone going outside to wear hats, scarves, gloves and layered clothing and to keep their fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered to prevent frostbite.

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Police Commissioner James O’Neill said thousands of officers will be stationed along the parade route. They include counterterrorism teams with long guns, plainclothes officers mixed in with the crowd and a new squad of K-9 teams that can sniff out explosives from a few hundred feet away.

The parade runs 46 blocks from the west side of Central Park to Macy’s flagship store in midtown Manhattan.

The parade features about 8,000 marchers, including high school bands from across the country, and two-dozen floats culminating with the arrival of Santa Claus.

Ross, 74, was performing a song from her new Christmas album and was being joined on her float by her some of her family members, including daughter Tracee Ellis Ross, a star of ABC’s ‘‘Black-ish,’’ and actor son Evan Ross.

Others in the lineup included Bad Bunny, Kane Brown and Ella Mai, Pentatonix, Rita Ora, Sugarland, Anika Noni Rose, Barenaked Ladies, Leona Lewis, Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, Bazzi, Ashley Tisdale and Carly Pearce.

Charlie Brown float over the crowd during the 92nd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP)DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
A Charlie Brown balloon floated over the crowd during the 92nd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A "PAW Patrol" balloon floats over Central Park West during the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press
A "PAW Patrol" balloon floated over Central Park West during the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

People take part in the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press
People took part in the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Singer Rita Ora attends the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Singer Rita Ora attended the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Revellers stay warm before the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press
Revellers stayed warm before the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.