86th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday in Manhattan

NEW YORK -- The 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off Thursday morning, November 22nd in grand style.

Nearly a dozen marching bands, more than 55 balloons, 1,600 cheerleaders and 900 clowns made their way through Manhattan to millions of cheering fans.

To help lift the spirits of New Yorkers, the city gave away about 5,000 bleacher seats to families hit the hardest by Superstorm Sandy.

The parade's executive producer says it has always served as a "beacon of hope and entertainment" for the city.

It's estimated about three million people were out watching the parade live and another 50 million at home.


Elmo made an appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, despite the recent scandal surrounding the "Sesame Street" character's puppeteer. 

Kevin Clash resigned from the show on Tuesday, after he'd been accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor. He has denied the allegation.

On a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, another puppeteer operated the Elmo puppet as it sang a song with other "Sesame Street" characters. 

Clash and other performers had recorded the song before his resignation. 

A "Sesame Workshop" executive said they never considered pulling Elmo from the parade.