The parade, in its 89th year, also included marching bands and floats to go along with Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Paddington and other giant balloons. The performers were expected to include Jordin Sparks, Shawn Mendes and Pat Benatar.
City officials have said there are no known, credible threats against New York following the recent attacks in Paris and a video purportedly produced by ISIS that contained video clips of Times Square. But Police Commissioner William Bratton said more than 2,500 officers will be stationed along the parade route for the Thanksgiving Day festivities - the largest number of officers the department has ever assigned to the event.
"I think people are coming here from all over the city, all over the metropolitan region, all over the country to be a part of this parade," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference Wednesday night. "We cannot let the terrorists succeed at psychological warfare. ... They're doing what they do to try and create fear, to try and change us."
Thousands of people gathered Wednesday night to watch as the large, character balloons that have become a staple in the parade were inflated.
"This begins a season of appreciation, a season to focus on family and all our loved ones," de Blasio said. "And yet, at the same time, there are some in this world who are trying to stir fear. They're trying to make us afraid. They're trying to make us change our lifestyle and change our values, lose our spirit, lose our values. We refuse to do that."
Possible concerns about safety didn't stop Janna Schuh of Atlanta, Georgia, from showing up.
"It's awesome," she said. "I've never done this before. It's on my bucket list."