NEW YORK (AP) — Cher is obviously a superstar but even a superstar can be the opening act when it comes to Santa.
Organizers of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have nabbed the Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winner for their 97th annual event. Cher will make her appearance just before the parade’s end, signaled by the arrival of Santa’s sleigh, parade organizers said.
This year’s parade will feature 16 giant character balloons, 26 floats, 32 novelty and heritage inflatables, 12 marching bands, 700 clowns and eight performance groups.
It’s a busy time for Cher, who is preparing to release a 25th-anniversary edition of her Grammy-winning album “Believe” and just dropped her first new album in five years, “Christmas.”
For the first time in its long history, the holiday tradition will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET, half an hour earlier than previous years, kicked off by multi-instrumentalist and Grammy-winner Jon Batiste.
There will be appearances by Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Chicago, En Vogue, ENHYPEN, David Foster and Katharine McPhee, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Jessie James Decker, Ashley Park with some Muppets from “Sesame Street,” Pentatonix, Paul Russell, Amanda Shaw and Alex Smith, and Manuel Turizo.
U.S. Olympic gymnastics silver medalist Jordan Chiles, U.S. track and field Paralympian Ezra Frech and U.S. Paralympic swimming gold medalist Jessica Long and Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke will also join the festivities.
Seven new balloon giants will join the lineup: “Beagle Scout Snoopy,” “Blue Cat & Chugs,” “Kung Fu Panda’s Po,” “Leo,” “Monkey D. Luffy,” “Pillsbury Doughboy” and “Uncle Dan.”
Broadway will be represented by performances from “& Juliet,” “Back to the Future: The Musical,” “How To Dance In Ohio,” “Shucked” and “Spamalot,” with an appearance by Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells of “Gutenberg! The Musical!”
Returning giant balloons include “Bluey,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Paw Patrol,” “Ryan’s World,” “Pikachu,” “Ronald McDonald,” “Stuart the Minion” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer the marchers, floats, entertainers and marching bands. The parade has lately asked icons to be the last guest before Santa, with last year Mariah Carey fitting the bill.
A marching band from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the scene of one of the nation’s worst school shootings, will represent Florida. Other marching bands this year will represent Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas.
Floats include ones from brands like Lego, “Peanuts,” “Baby Shark,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Sesame Street.”
The parade airs on NBC and streams on Peacock. Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker from “Today” will host and a Spanish language simulcast on Telemundo will be hosted by Carlos Adyan and Andrea Meza.