NYPD ramps up security as thousands watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation

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UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan — It's the precursor to the kickoff of the holiday season — the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation attracts more than a million people each year.

This year the crowds are expected to be even larger, despite an unfounded terrorism threat.

"It's such a thrill. We love it!" exclaimed Maryann Roger, who was visiting from Phoenix. She said that the thrill was because "nothing becomes something."

For that to happen for each of the more than one dozen balloons, It takes four semi-trailers of helium as well as a lot of muscle and patience from hundreds of workers and volunteers.

The inflation site, which is located on both the north and south sides of the Museum of Natural History, sees the balloons go from being completely flat at 9:00 a.m., to half of the double-decker bus-sized balloons being full by 3:00 P.M., to the last balloon being ready for deployment well after sundown.

It is a most unusual sight that draws people from far and wide.

"I think it's one of the quintessential things to see" in New York, said Naomi Scott-Dunne, who was on scene for the first time, having moved here eight years ago from London.

"It's better than the parade," said an elementary schooler named Eli, at one of the observation barricades. "There's less people."

The one million people who do come are about a third of the number that go to the parade the next day.

It's the 90th parade, and a re-creation of the earliest balloon ever will be in this one. Felix the Cat is back.

"The original was held up on poles," said Amy Kule, the executive producer of the parade, in an interview. The new Felix has "a little bit of helium to make it lighter," she said, but overall, it is a similar, retro design.

One thing that's changed drastically from the early parades is the threat of terrorism. ISIS recently, in its online magazine, identified the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as "an excellent target" for an attack.

Hundreds of extra uniformed officers were on hand at the balloon inflation, and some 3,300 have been assigned to Thursday's parade route. It's something that someone born much more recently than 90 years ago described in positive terms.

"I feel safe," said Christian Costa, a tween from Finland. He said that the police presence was strong, but not so overwhelming that it could ruin his experience in any way.

"It's my first time in America," he told PIX11 News, "and my mom said, 'Let's go.'"