11/22/2012 07:50 am ET Updated Nov 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012: Fans Line Up For Annual Balloon Inflation (PHOTOS)

By Julie Shapiro, Paul Lomax

UPPER WEST SIDE — Hundreds of spectators watched wide-eyed as balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade swelled into shape Wednesday afternoon.

A giant Kermit the Frog, Spider-Man and other cartoon and pop-culture favorites rose from Central Park West in advance of the 86th annual parade.

"It's a magical night," said Jennifer Lawlor, a New Jersey resident who watched the balloon inflation with her husband, 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. "It's so neat for the kids to see all the balloons being blown up, and I hope tonight and tomorrow puts a big smile on everyone's face after what New York went through with Hurricane Sandy."

The gargantuan balloons include Hello Kitty riding an airplane, measuring 36 feet tall, 38 feet wide and 50 feet long, and a Papa Smurf with a red bowtie and cane measuring 51 feet tall, 36 feet wide and 46 feet long.

Bernadette O'Sullivan, 40, from Westchester, brought her three kids and their cousins to see the balloons inflated on the eve of Thanksgiving.

"It's a fun tradition for all the family to enjoy and to bring everyone together," she said.

The parade is expected to draw 3.5 million spectators. It will kick off at 9 a.m. Thursday at Central Park West and West 77th Street and will travel down a new route along Central Park, 59th Street and Sixth Avenue.

On Wednesday night, Dany Jones, 53, a Macy's balloon technician for the past 23 years, was helping to blow up an enormous Mickey Mouse.

"It's going to be a fabulous parade tomorrow," Jones said, "and with weather like this we're going to fly the balloons as high as they let us."



Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012: Inflation Eve