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It’s that time of year, PopWatchers — when otherwise responsible parents camp out and expose their children to threateningly low temperatures in order to see questionable lip synching and larger-than-life icons on puppet strings. No, I’m not talking about a Today show performance by One Direction… but close! It’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Like any good spectacular, there was no shortage of 11th-hour drama: High winds in New York City nearly scuttled this year’s march through Manhattan (for only the second time in 87 years), but justice — and giant balloons! — prevailed. So buckle in, turkeys, because you’re about to get three consecutive hours of more B-grade performers, “color” commentary (this year with 200 percent more Matt Lauer and Al Roker beards!), and random acts of Richard Simmons than you can shake a stick at.

While I process a deep well of emotion regarding this year’s holiday hurrah, please head Mr. Lauer’s advice and “get this party started” in the comments section below. I’ll be back with a full reaction soon!

UPDATE: The parade is through (at least on the East Coast), and I’ve now been through a soul-stirring spiritual upheaval that can only be pacified by mountains of turkey and mashed potatoes. While I eat my emotions, click through to survey the highs (cloggers, jump ropers, and drill teams, oh my!), the lows (why, Joan Jett? Johnny Rzeznik, is that you?) of this year’s parade.

Obvious SPOILER ALERT for West Coasters; that is, assuming you can get spoiled on an already announced, pre-recorded performance by Disney teen sensation Debby Ryan.

10:03 a.m. ET: The parade opens to “Can’t Hold Us” by EW’s New Hollywood stars Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, with a performance by what appeared to be alums of Kidz Bop who now hope to join the Step Up franchise (and/or become drumming robots?).

10:12 a.m.: Despite the fact that Al Roker just told us it’s 30 degrees outside, the ladies of Motown: The Musical are mostly wearing sleeveless dresses for their performance of The Temptations’ “Get Ready” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets.” As someone who’s ensconced in three layers of blankets in a house in Alabama and still shivering, I feel for them. (Related: Designers really need to shift their priorities to make a Forever Lazy cocktail dress happen, stat.)

10:17 a.m.: Al reveals that nearly 6,000 Macy’s employees are marching in the parade, watched by a crowd of about 3.5 million spectators. He adds that “many of them are probably fans of NBC’s white-hot drama Chicago Fire.” Technically, it could be true, but that’s a fairly strong assertion, Mr. Roker…

10:19 a.m.: The weatherman throws to the “red-hot” Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. Isn’t white-hot hotter than red-hot? Should Matt & Savannah be insulted?

10:20 a.m.: Confession: I love Matilda almost as much as Marc Snetiker likes “Turkey Lurkey Time,” so I am stoked as Milly Shapiro (my favorite of the three Matildas currently on Broadway) leads off a medley of “Revolting Children” and “When I Grow Up.” Milly and her fellow Matildas are apparently exiting the show in two months. Plan accordingly, Broadway fans.

10:27 a.m.: It’s time for “Broadway’s high-heel hit” Kinky Boots. Fun fact: Remember at the VMAs how Justin Timberlake joked that he shared his Video Vanguard Moonman with *NSync, but would keep it at his house? Billy Porter, who plays Boots‘ fabulous drag queen Lola, said it first. When accepting his Best Musical Actor Tony in June, he told costar Stark Sands (that’d be the clueless-looking guy in the navy blazer, boxers, and red pleather thigh-highs), “You are my rock, my sword, my shield. Your grace gives me presence. I share this award with you — I’m-a keep it at my house, but I share it with you.”

10:36 a.m.: The cast of Broadway’s Pippin kicks off the Obvious Lip Synching Award contest, but they make up for it with dazzling acrobatics. Also, my sympathy for Motown has relocated to the circus girls of Pippin, who are in strapless leotards — and rolling on the freezing cold ground. You are a cruel, cruel mistress, Macy’s.

10:39-10:52 a.m.: Cue the parade of NBC stars! The Blacklist‘s Megan Boone and Diego Klattenhoff, The Michael J. Fox Show‘s Betsy Brandt, and Carrie Underwood from next Thursday’s Sound of Music live performance. For the former, Al has one question, which is (I’m paraphrasing here), “Are you super-surprised your show didn’t flop?”

10:53 a.m.: Show me a person who claims they don’t get a little jingly inside while watching a good, old-fashioned Rockette kickline, and I’ll show you a liar. I only wish they performed to this version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

10:59 a.m.: The parade finally hits Herald Square, we’re only on the first marching band since the opener, and I am already maxed out. There are two hours to go, y’all. Better take a quick shot of eggnog to get myself in spirit.

11:02 a.m.: SNOOPY! I like to think the fact that the Beggin’ Strips commercial came on during the last break was no coincidence. Cute dogs for the win! (Related: T-minus 118 minutes until the National Dog Show.)

11:04 a.m.: Gavin DeGraw is on the Ocean Spray cranberry float surrounded by what appear to be backup dancers abandoned by Katy Perry after her performance of “Roar” on Saturday Night Live last month.

11:08 a.m.: The Spirit of America Dance Team has opted for a “Lady Gaga-inspired Mad Tea Party,” during which they screamed in unison, “Tip me over and pour me out!” Oof. I bet the girls who got the covered-up Mad Hatter costume were pissed when they got that costume and are now realizing it was a blessing in disguise. (That disguise is Ronald McDonald on angel dust.)

11:11 a.m.: There’s a 24-hour channel for pre-schoolers? File Under: Things You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Have Kids. That said, this performance is adorable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing “Kindness Counts” all day long.

11:13 a.m.: First flag routine of the parade is a victory for all when the high winds don’t embarrass a high school girl on national television.

11:14 a.m.: Matt tells us “Savannah’s been waiting all year for” the AFLAC duck, then he insults her imitation of the mascot’s quack. Burn!

11:15 a.m.: Kellie Pickler performs on the NHL float, which features a functioning (albeit tiny) ice rink. Okay, that’s awesome. And maybe a little dangerous for the children skating on a moving truck? But mostly awesome.

11:19 a.m.: Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, and Sesame Street. Now that is the float I want to be on. Definitely the Cool Kids Table of this year’s parade. And who’s front and center on the float? My favorite Roots member, who shakes what his mama gave him — a percussive banana.

11:23 a.m.: The Marching Minutemen of Elkhart, Ind., inject just what was missing into this mainstream celebration: Ted Nugent! The Nuge was always meant to be accompanied by golden pom-poms if you ask me.

11:25 a.m.: Fifth Harmony. I really can’t keep up with all the reality singing competition stars in this post-Diana DeGarmo world.

11:28 a.m.: The world’s only all-male clogging group All That! wins. They’ve jangled nearly three miles and are still nailing a performance to Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

11:29 a.m.: Cher Lloyd… see Fifth Harmony comments above.

11:31 a.m.: Florida Georgia Line sings “Cruise” on the Gibson float. Now, this is a pretty straightforward band+brand pairing (it’s certainly no Gavin DeGraw crooning in a cranberry bog!), but I sometimes wish they’d get a little more creative with the juxtapositions. Where’s the whimsy?

11:32 a.m.: Gif-makers, start your grabbers because Richard Simmons is having THE BEST TIME. It’s a joie de vivre that hasn’t been seen since Emma Thompson at the Toronto Film Festival.

11:38 a.m.: Tween girl down! The first (and hopefully only) recorded fall of this year’s parade comes courtesy of the Manhattan Youth Ballet. I blame the intense amount of slippery tinsel dragging in the wake of the SeaWorld float.

11:39 a.m.: Tulsa’s Union High School Renegade Regiment gets the Slow Your Roll Award for their daily 7 a.m. rehearsals. Alas, all that practice didn’t save them from a dropped flag during the performance and a dancer nearly taking a header in the final pose. Are the dominoes falling before our very eyes?

11:42 a.m.: Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson clan very briefly appears on screen. Ratings just quadrupled.

11:46 a.m.: Miss America Nina Davuluri stands atop the Drake’s Cakes float. See, that’s exactly the kind of cheeky pairing I was mentioning earlier. Beauty queens and carbs? Ha!

11:48 a.m.: The Summer Set won a contest, and now they get to perform under a scaled-down Mount Rushmore on the South Dakota Tourism float. Who says dreams don’t come true?

11:54 a.m.: J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade) may have overtaken All That! in the MVP (Most Valuable Performer) competition with their jump-rope routine Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding’s “I Need Your Love.” There are 240 of them, my friends. That is a lot o’ rope.

11:58 a.m.: Tarpon Springs High School Outdoor Performance Ensemble from Florida definitely wins the Best Ending with a re-creation of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s The Kiss. A little saucy for a high school performance, no? I like it!

11:59 a.m.: Kristin Chenoweth takes on “New York, New York.” With her kicky new short-cropped haircut and generally wackadoo rendition of Sinatra’s classic, she appears to be just a few Twitter rants away from completing her transformation into Ellen Barkin.

12:02 p.m.: Just 58 minutes until the dog show, and there’s a teaser set to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” to pump us up. The band’s name and the images of adorable puppehs go a long way to encapsulating my state of mind right now, so I’ll just ignore the fact that tigers are cats. Guess Purina’s marketing people decided Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” was a skoach too hardcore.

12:07 p.m.: The Goo Goo Dolls’ Johnny Rzeznik looks not unlike Scott Thorson after a few years with Liberace. If you don’t know what that means, see: Behind the Candelabra.

12:14 p.m.: Serious question, Joan Jett: Why are you here?

12:26 p.m.: Bravo, Chicago’s South Shore Drill Team! After a lot of same-samey acts (Power Rangers, TMNT, Fall Out Boy), finally a jolt of energy to get us through the last half hour. I unexpectedly dig the Tron: Legacy-style costumes (also, smart to cover up!) and the EDM drill team routine to Loreen’s “Euphoria.” Can we just watch this for the rest of the parade? Also, get these kids a touring schedule!

12:29 p.m.: Props to the person in the Gru costume from Despicable Me 2. He (or she) is shimmying like the rent’s due tomorrow.

12:37 p.m.: Buzz Lightyear has arrived, so things are officially winding down.

12:39 p.m.: Oh to be the member of Illinois’ Marian Catholic High School Marching Band whose only job is to carry a 2-D, cardboard candy cane.

12:45 p.m.: I’m sorry, but the dancing gifts and Dora the Explorer are destroying Ariana Grande, energy-wise. Dora and Gru should compete on Dancing With the Cartoon Stars.

12:52 p.m.: Matt delivers an actual useful/interesting factoid: Thanksgiving and the first day of Hannukah haven’t coincided since 1888 and won’t overlap again for another 79,000 years. Consider my mind blown.

12:57 p.m.: And the third-to-last performance of the parade by Manheim Steamroller, a.k.a. your dad’s favorite electronica holiday duo from 1994. They’re basically the Daft Punk of seasonal synthesizers.

1 p.m.: All right. Santa’s arrived, and it’s on to the dog show, people. Time for the real party to begin! Just ask this guy.

What did you think of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, PopWatchers? Everything you hoped for and more (Kellie Pickler)? What was your favorite act? Which marching band blew your mind? Have you already booked your tickets for a Broadway show in 2014? I’d be ever so thankful if you’d share your comments below. Happy Turkey Day to all and to all a good, tryptophan-coma-induced night!


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