New faces and old favorites will fly, float, and march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as police go all-out to secure it in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots. One of the nation's biggest outdoor holiday events, the parade makes its way through 2.5 miles of Manhattan with marching bands, performers from Broadway hits, elaborate floats, and signature giant balloons. Olaf from the Disney movie Frozen and Chase from the TV cartoon Paw Patrol will be among the new balloons Thursday, but the parade also will feature heavy security, including officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors among the crowds, sharpshooters on rooftops, and sand-filled city sanitation trucks poised as imposing barriers to traffic at every cross street, the AP reports.
Wired reports a unique team of 14 Labrador retrievers will also be safeguarding parade-goers. The dogs have all gone through the "Vapor Wake" security training program created by Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine. As Wired explains, the labs are bred and trained to "detect faint whiffs of explosive particles in the thermal heat plumes humans create as they walk." More plainly, unlike regular bomb-sniffing dogs that keep their noses on the ground, Vapor Wake dogs sniff the air and can identify "someone wearing or carrying a bomb in a sea of tens of thousands of people." Authorities say there is no confirmation of a credible threat to the parade, but it comes after a truck attack on a bike path near the World Trade Center killed eight people in October. The 91st annual parade begins at 9am ET and will be broadcast live on NBC.