NEW YORK » More than 400 Hawaii band members, along with 200 hula dancers braved the chilly streets of New York protected by sand-filled dump trucks and bomb-sniffing dogs as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went off without a hitch today.
Thousands of spectators and more than 3,000 police officers lined the streets amid an air of uncertainty about the possibility of an extremist attack.
“There are so many police officers out here you can’t help but feel safe,” said Sarah Bender, who brought her two young sons to watch the parade. “It’s a day to have fun, watch the balloons and celebrate with your family. You can’t spend your life worrying about what could happen.”
The Hawaii All State Marching Band, also known as Na Koa Alii, played and danced to tunes such as “Tahiti Tahiti” and “Mele Kalikimaka.” Band members wore raffia skirts and custom-made aloha shirts.
The band — the parade’s largest musical ensemble — comprises select high school students from 41 public and private schools statewide
While authorities had said there was no confirmation of any credible threat, they stepped up safety measures in the wake of the July cargo truck attack on a holiday crowd in Nice, France, and a recent posting in an English-language Islamic State group magazine that called the Thanksgiving parade “an excellent target.”
Revelers cheered and yelled, “Thank you!” to officers along the route today, giving special attention to the New York Police Department marching band.
Many of the police officers were enveloped in the merriment. On Central Park West, a counterterrorism officer named Chris Matz stood briefly on the parade route holding his 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, in his arms, before passing her back over the barricade.
At 57th Street, in front of a truck blockade, a detective named T.J. Martine wore a lei of purple orchids. It had been given to him by members of Na Koa Ali’i, Hawaii’s all-state marching band. Every so often he tossed handfuls of rainbow confetti at the crowd.
Spectators sometimes stood 10 deep to see the parade and its signature giant balloons, including Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants, Charlie Brown and other characters. Marching bands from across the country entertained revelers, as did such celebrity singers as Tony Bennett and Sarah McLachlan.
Annie Quinn traveled more than three hours from Albany to attend the parade with her cousin and two sisters — all three dressed in turkey costumes — scoring prime front-row seats along the route.
“We sat here for hours, but it was worth it,” she said. “This was the best parade I’ve seen in a while.”
But amid the fun and high-fives, there was intensive security.
Officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors walked among the crowds, and more than 80 sanitation trucks filled with sand were parked at intersections and other places, acting as barriers against any kind of attack.
Police have used sanitation trucks as barricades before. But the NYPD had said the trucks would play a bigger role at this year’s parade after the Nice attack, which killed more than 80 people.
Na Koa Alii, formed in 2002, performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005 and 2011. The band also traveled to California in 2003, 2009 and 2013 to perform in the Rose Parade.
The students marched near a float made in collaboration with King’s Hawaiian bakery. Dubbed the “Aloha Spirit,” the three-story-tall float features a volcano, a flowing waterfall, palm trees and plumeria.
The New York Times contributed to this story.