New York (CNN) -- The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as much a holiday tradition as turkey, football and dinner table debates, celebrated its 85th anniversary with a host of new floats and balloons that began making their way down New York City's streets Thursday morning.
Making its return after an 18-year absence is Sonic the Hedgehog. He joins a 41-foot-tall Julius the monkey; an eagerly-anticipated newcomer, "B," a pointy-toothed, stitched-face creation from filmmaker Tim Burton; and the Aflac Duck Balloonicle -- a balloon on wheels.
Rounding out the newbies are Gazer the Elf and Harold the Policeman.
"It's amazing to see them come to life," Amy Kule, the parade's executive producer, told CNN affiliate WABC. "They start off as ideas in your head, they become a drawing on a piece of paper. And then miraculously, the magicians at the Macy's parade studio build them and bring them to life."
In all, more than 50 balloons will grace the Manhattan sky during the parade.
Forecasters predict sunny skies and 10 mph winds, good news for the predicted 3.5 million people along the parade route.
Another 50 million are expected to watch from home as more than 1,600 cheerleaders, two dozen floats, 11 marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus saunter by.
Singers Cee Lo Green and Mary J. Blige are among the scheduled performers.
CNN's Chris Kokenes contributed to this report.