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Brrr! With Temperatures in 20s, Macy’s Parade Celebrates 70th Birthday

November 28, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Dalmatian-suited dancers shivered in 25-degree chill today and Bullwinkle soared over Broadway for the first time in years as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrated its 70th birthday.

When you turn 70, you should get to invite all your favorite friends to the party _ even if they’re 68 feet tall and look goofy.

The parade brought back a couple of classic balloons, Harold the Fireman and Flying Fish, for the grand spectacle that has been wowing crowds for 70 years.

But commercialism was also alive and well: Pongo and Perdy, the canine stars of the new movie ``101 Dalmatians,″ rode down the 2 1/2-mile parade route today in villain Cruella DeVil’s roadster.

``I’m really excited, a little bit nervous, because of all the cameras and because if I make a mistake, everyone in the world is going to find out,″ said Tara Diaz, 11, of Brentwood, N.Y., part of the pack of dancing Dalmatians who accompanied the ``real″ Pongo and Perdy.

Seventeen floats and 18 giant helium balloons soared against the sky as they glided down the street in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers. Temperatures were in the mid-20s.

``I’d really like it if it were a lot warmer here,″ said Jennifer Foster, 14, a thrilled-but-chilled member of the Rebel Regiment marching band from James F. Byrnes High School in Spartanburg, S.C.

More than 45 million were expected to watch on television.

``It’s the Thanksgiving Day parade; how can you not be in it?″ said Macy’s safety engineer Daniel Martin, 26, who marched as a clown, resplendent in flower-adorned yellow rain hat and green plastic tutu.

``We got up at 3 o’clock in the morning to be here at 3:30,″ added his roommate, Ron Lupi, 26. ``You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to put this clown makeup on.″

A 68-foot Bullwinkle _ with Rocky the squirrel on his back _ and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit joined Harold and Flying Fish, lovable characters from Macy’s parades of yesteryear, as the four new balloons in the parade.

The other helium heroes included Garfield, the Cat in the Hat, Big Bird, Woody Woodpecker, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Barney and Spiderman.

The parade featured 538 clowns, 13 bands, and celebrities, including figure skater Oksana Baiul, Miss America Tara Dawn Holland and singer-actress Vanessa Williams.

``Oooh! Is that a real rocket?″ marveled 4-year-old Sophia Giovannitti of Yonkers, who ogled a float with her sister, Julia, 7. ``This is cool!″ chimed in their dad, David, 42.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving tradition began in 1924 when immigrant workers eager to celebrate their new American heritage held a public festival to herald the coming of Christmas.

That parade _ with the workers cavorting as clowns, giants, cowboys and cowgirls, along with 25 animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo _ was so popular that Macy’s made it an annual tradition. The parade has missed just three years, from 1942 through 1944 during World War II.

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