The crowds arrived extra early this year at the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation, as concerns over high winds grounding all the big characters tomorrow drew thousands of Snoopy, SpongeBob, Olaf, and Pikachu enthusiasts this afternoon to at least see their favorites get plumped.
Parade officials will make the go/no go call tomorrow morning right before the 9:00 a.m. step off—if winds hit 23 mph (sustained) and 34 mph (gusts), everyone stays under their nets—so tonight is possibly your only chance to see these 16 behemoths.
There are three brand new and two new "heritage" character balloons this year, including Astronaut Snoopy, the world's most famous beagle decked out in a spacesuit to honor the moon landing's 50th anniversary; and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's delightfully dotted, tentacled face-fish, called Love Flies Up to the Sky.
Other new big balloons which may or may not make their way down Central Park West tomorrow: Sam I Am's Green Eggs and Ham-mobile, SpongeBob Squarepants with pet snail Gary riding on his back, and Smokey Bear, the 75-year-old ursine PSA returning to the lineup (possibly, wind wiling) for the first time since 1993.
As always, the inflation of these monsters, by a crew of 160, takes place on the streets to the north and south of the American Museum of Natural History. What was once a low-key, local affair (you used to be able to just stroll right up any time that night, preferably after a few hours at a nearby tavern), is now a tightly-regulated, heavily-barricaded viewing march/family-friendly block party, complete with easy listening teen pop hits and Christmas songs playing from speakers set all up and down the blocks. The whole area gets shut down at 8:00, so get over there right now if you want to join the fun.
If you want to maximize your Thanksgiving Day Parade fun, here's the map of tomorrow's parade.