Giant balloons of Buzz Lightyear, Horton the elephant of Dr. Seuss fame and one of the blue creatures popularized on the TV show "The Smurfs" will take their place among dozens of other balloons on the 2.5-mile route down Broadway.
About 3.5 million spectators are expected to watch the 82nd annual parade in person, with another 50 million tuning in on television to catch a glimpse of 28 floats, 10 marching bands and performances by Miley Cyrus, Trace Adkins, James Taylor and the Radio City Rockettes.
"We see the parade as a huge pageant of American culture," said executive producer Robin Hall.
The National Weather Service was forecasting a sunny, seasonable day with roughly 10 mph winds, well below city guidelines for grounding the balloons.
Those rules were established after 45 mph winds drove a Cat in the Hat balloon into a metal pole during the 1997 parade, leaving a woman in a coma.
The festivities were set to start Wednesday evening, when workers were to inflate the 13 giant and 31 smaller balloons. Each giant requires more than 5,000 cubic feet of helium.
Also among the newcomers was a smaller balloon paying tribute to graffiti artist Keith Haring, who died in 1990.
Haring's father, sister and other relatives will escort the inflated version of his drawing "Untitled (Figure with Heart)," Hall said. It is the third in a series of balloons based on contemporary art.
Linde tested the process - sucking the gas out of the balloons, compressing it and later purifying it for resale - last year and hopes to expand it to all but the giant balloons Thursday, he said.
The parade provides a coveted yearly spotlight for Broadway productions. This year, cast members of "Hair," "In the Heights," "The Little Mermaid," "South Pacific" and "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" were slated to perform.
The parade, which began in 1924 and was canceled for two years during World War II, ends up in front of Macy's flagship store in Herald Square. Macy's is marking its 150th anniversary this year.