NEW YORK — Santa Claus, giant cartoon balloons and whimsical floats were protected by sand-filled dump trucks and bomb-sniffing dogs as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wound its way through the streets of Manhattan under heavy security.
The annual spectacle went off without a hitch Thursday, with thousands of spectators and more than 3,000 police officers lining the streets amid an air of uncertainty about the possibility of an extremist attack.
“There are so many police officers out here you can’t help but feel safe,” said Sarah Bender, who brought her two young sons to watch the parade. “It’s a day to have fun, watch the balloons and celebrate with your family. You can’t spend your life worrying about what could happen.”
While authorities had said there was no confirmation of any credible threat, they stepped up safety measures in the wake of the July cargo truck attack on a holiday crowd in Nice, France, and a recent posting in an English-language Islamic State group magazine that called the Thanksgiving parade “an excellent target.”
Revelers cheered and yelled, “Thank you!” to officers along the route Thursday, giving special attention to the New York Police Department marching band.
Spectators sometimes stood 10 deep to see the parade and its signature giant balloons, including Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants, Charlie Brown and other characters. Marching bands from across the country entertained revelers, as did such celebrity singers as Tony Bennett and Sarah McLachlan.
Annie Quinn traveled more than three hours from Albany to attend the parade with her cousin and two sisters — all three dressed in turkey costumes — scoring prime front-row seats along the route.
“We sat here for hours, but it was worth it,” she said. “This was the best parade I’ve seen in a while.”
But amid the fun and high-fives, there was intensive security.
Officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors walked among the crowds, and more than 80 sanitation trucks filled with sand were parked at intersections and other places, acting as barriers against any kind of attack.
Police have used sanitation trucks as barricades before. But the NYPD had said the trucks would play a bigger role at this year’s parade after the Nice attack, which killed more than 80 people.