NEW YORK — Frigid weather and blustery winds didn’t chill the enthusiasm at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where spectators bundled up in blankets and sleeping bags and the giant character balloons flew lower than usual.

SpongeBob, Charlie Brown, the Grinch and other big balloons were cleared for takeoff just before Thursday’s parade, although some floated at noticeably lower-than-usual heights above the people holding their tethers, like the outstretched hand of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” balloon that appeared to hit some of his handlers on their wool cap-covered heads.

The 21 degrees at the start made it one of the coldest Thanksgivings in the city in decades, and the temperature warmed only a few degrees as the parade rolled along.

Officials had been ready to order the 16 helium-filled balloons to a lower altitude or removed entirely if sustained winds exceeded 23 mph and gusts exceeded 34 mph. There have been mishaps and injuries in the past.

Bystanders refused to let the cold put a damper on watching the parade, breaking out blankets and sleeping bags to watch the balloons, bands and floats go by.

Tony Stout had camped out with his extended family since 2 a.m. to make sure they got a good view of his son, who was in the parade with the Ohio State University marching band.

“Ohhh, I’m freezing and numb, but excited,” said Stout, who had traveled from Columbus, Ohio.

Diana Ross, John Legend, Martina McBride and the Muppets performed in the frigid cold.

Macy’s later apologized for “technical difficulties” after fans ripped into Rita Ora for what they saw as awkward lip-syncing.

A performance from the Broadway musical “The Prom” included a kiss between two female cast members. The producers said it was the parade’s “first LGBTQ kiss.”

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