NEW YORK - Crowds once again lined New York City streets to watch the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as it returned to its full glory, and there was one clear star of the show: Baby Yoda.
At one point, all eyes were on the float modeled after the beloved "Mandalorian" character Baby Yoda — or Grogu — when it passed by. It was the float’s first appearance.
Reaction quickly flooded social media.
"I am thankful for that baby yoda float," one user posted.
At one point NBC’s "TODAY" weatherman and parade co-host Al Roker could be heard shouting, "Baby Yoda! I love you!"
The parade, which began at 9 a.m., had 2.5 miles of public viewing along New York streets. Thousands of marchers, hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats — and, of course, Santa Claus — marked the latest U.S. holiday event to make a comeback as vaccines, familiarity and sheer frustration made officials and some of the public more comfortable with big gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.
"It really made Thanksgiving feel very festive and full of life," Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old interior design firm assistant, said after watching the spectacle in a turkey-shaped hat.
Entertainers and celebrities included Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Miss America Camille Schrier, the band Foreigner, and many others. Several Broadway musical casts and the Radio City Rockettes also performed.
Still, safety measures continued. Parade staffers and volunteers had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks, though some singers and performers were allowed to shed them. There was no inoculation requirement for spectators, but Macy’s and the city encouraged them to cover their faces.
Last Thanksgiving, with no vaccines available and the virus beginning a winter surge in the nation’s biggest city, the parade was confined to one block and sometimes pre-taped. Most performers were locally based, to cut down on travel, and the giant balloons were tethered to vehicles instead of being handled by volunteers. No spectators were allowed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.