NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- An estimated three million people marveled over the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning.
The world's largest parade kicked off in Midtown around 9 a.m.
Among the first balloons to pass through the procession were a giant inflatable turkey and a larger than life Charlie Brown, which was one of three new balloons this year, CBS2's Emily Smith reported.
Thomas the Tank Engine soared through the sky, directly followed by the classic marching bands. Then, Ronald McDonald hovered over Central Park West.
No matter what age you are, you always feel like a kid standing among the crowds at one of the city's biggest holiday celebrations, 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported. Costumed characters mingled with revelries and crowds cheered as clowns on bicycles rode by carrying bundles of balloons.
Crowds, some as many as ten deep, lined the parade route, which started on Manhattan's Upper West Side and made its way down to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street.
"It's amazing, there's so many people, so many things to see, so many bright colors," one spectator told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa.
The revelers knew they could've stayed home and watched it all on TV, but couldn't miss the chance to see it in person and be there when Santa and his reindeer flew in from the North Pole. His friend, the Elf on the Shelf was the tallest balloon in the parade's history.
An appearance from Santa is one of the parade's highlighted traditions that helps ring in the holiday season, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.
For one final treat, Felix the Cat returned for the first time since the 1930s. The balloon was an exact replica of the one that debuted in 1927.
While spectators relaxed and enjoyed the excitement, police worked overtime.
There were more than 3,000 NYPD officers and unprecedented security measures in place.
"The NYPD -- they did a great job, like always, and we had a great day. Happy Thanksgiving!" one mother said.
A total of 82 city sanitation trucks filled with sand and salt were used at intersections and other strategic spots along the parade route to create an imposing physical barrier to terror. The trucks weigh about 16 tons empty, and up to twice that with sand. While the trucks have been used like this before, most recently to protect Trump Tower, police said they played a bigger role at this year's parade in the wake of the Bastille Day cargo truck attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people, as well as a recent posting in an English-language Islamic State magazine that called the parade "an excellent target."
The NYPD Counterterrorism Critical Response Command units were in place, with vapor wake dogs trained to detect explosives, and helicopters flew high above the balloons.
"We look at everything that's transpired since the last parade, we take that into consideration and we build our counter terrorism protection around that," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said.
However, one NYPD officer had a special moment, proposing to his girlfriend along the parade route.
Not only was the parade and its security a success, so were the cleanup efforts.
The city's sanitation department said it had a crew of more than 150 workers getting things spick-and-span again.
Together, they used 46 mechanical and hand brooms, along with 24 backpack blowers. The trash was then loaded into 22 trucks.
Last year, the mess came to more than 32 tons of trash.
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