By Forrest Brown, CNN
(CNN) -- What a difference Covid-19 vaccines and 12 months make.
Last year, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was a muted affair. Because of the pandemic, it was a TV-only event. No animated crowds lining Manhattan's avenues. No long parade route.
The 2021 spectacle returned to the more familiar parade of yore on Thursday. Travelers and residents have 2.5 miles of public viewing as balloons, floats and bands make their way from the Upper West Side to Macy's flagship store at Herald Square.
About 2.5 million people were expected to attend this year, according to a Macy's spokesman. "We're so thrilled to be back," Orlando Veras told CNN's Miguel Marquez.
Veras said "we have 6,500 participants in the parade, but there's thousands of more people who are supporting behind the scenes from various agencies in New York City, state and federal government. You know, it is one of the largest events in New York City and a national tradition."