NEW YORK — The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicked off in New York on Thursday, putting a festive mood in the air in a city still coping with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

The young, and the young at heart, were delighted by the sight and sound of marching bands, performers and, of course, the giant balloons. The weather was a sunny 47 degrees. Some parade-goers had camped out to get a good spot, staying snug in sleeping bags. Others came well-prepared with folding chairs.

Alan Batt and his 11-year-old twins, Kyto and Elina, took in the parade at the end of the route, well away from the crowd and seemingly too far away for a good view. But they had an advantage: Two tall stepladders they hauled over from their apartment eight blocks away – one for each twin.

“We’re New Yorkers,” the 65-year-old Batt said. “We know what we’re doing.”

With the height advantage, “I get to see everything!” Kyto said.

Airports, train stations and highways were expected to remain busy Thursday as people made their way home to reconnect with family and friends for Thanksgiving – though some reunions might be bittersweet because of the damage and displacement caused by Sandy.

The popular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on TV, includes such giant balloons as Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf, a new version of Hello Kitty, Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy. Real-life stars were to include singer Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of “The X Factor.”

The holiday came as portions of the Northeast still were reeling from Sandy’s havoc, and volunteers planned to serve thousands of turkey dinners to people it left homeless or struggling.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was reflective Thursday as he praised police, firefighters, armed services personnel, sanitation workers and volunteers involved in the storm response. After stopping at the parade, Bloomberg was heading to a firehouse in the hard-hit Rockaways area of Queens.

Bloomberg’s office was coordinating the distribution of 26,500 meals at 30 sites in neighborhoods affected by Sandy, and other organizations also were pitching in.

The Long Beach Surf Association and a charity called Surf for All were sponsoring a Thanksgiving dinner in the Long Island community of Long Beach.

Some used social media to coordinate Thanksgiving volunteering. Elle Aichele, of Toms River, N.J., started a Facebook page called Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving Adopt a Family for Dinner.

“Please host a family that needs something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!” she wrote. “I have been thinking about what I can do to help and this is it!”