NEW YORK -- The 97th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has returned to the streets of New York City.
The Macy's parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer the marchers, floats, entertainers and marching bands.
For the first time in its long history, the holiday tradition will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET, half an hour earlier than previous years.
This year's parade will feature 16 giant character balloons, 26 floats, 32 novelty and heritage inflatables, 12 marching bands, 700 clowns and eight performance groups.
Seven new balloon giants will join the lineup: "Beagle Scout Snoopy," "Blue Cat & Chugs," "Kung Fu Panda's Po," "Leo," "Monkey D. Luffy," "Pillsbury Doughboy" and "Uncle Dan."
Returning giant balloons include "Bluey," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Paw Patrol," "Ryan's World," "Pikachu," "Ronald McDonald," "Stuart the Minion" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Floats include ones from brands like Lego, "Peanuts," "Baby Shark," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Sesame Street."
One of the best ways to see the balloons is actually the day before when they are inflated. Last year's inflation took place Wednesday afternoon from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The public entrance was at 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.
Click here for more details on the inflation event.
Grammy-winner and Multi-instrumentalist Jon Batiste will kick off the festivities.
Music superstar Cher will make her appearance just before the parade's end, signaled by the arrival of Santa's sleigh, parade organizers said.
The Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winner is preparing to release a 25th-anniversary edition of her Grammy-winning album "Believe" and just dropped her first new album in five years, "Christmas."
There will be appearances by Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Chicago, En Vogue, ENHYPEN, David Foster and Katharine McPhee, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Jessie James Decker, Ashley Park with some Muppets from "Sesame Street," Pentatonix, Paul Russell, Amanda Shaw and Alex Smith, and Manuel Turizo.
Broadway will be represented by performances from "& Juliet," "Back to the Future: The Musical," "How To Dance In Ohio," "Shucked" and "Spamalot," with an appearance by Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells of "Gutenberg! The Musical!"
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)