Thousands Line Up for Big Bay Balloon Parade

Over 100,000 spectators are expected to attend "America's largest balloon parade."

Over 100,000 people flocked to the scenic bayside streets of downtown San Diego for the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade.

The 24th annual tradition kicked off at 3 p.m. Friday, one day before the National University Holiday Bowl. This year's theme is "Forever Young" and featured timeless characters such as the Grinch and Mr. Potato Head, inflated with 65,000 cubic feet of helium.

Dubbed "America's Largest Balloon Parade," this year's procession included 28 giant inflatables. Spectators started lining the streets early so they wouldn't have to strain for a glimpse of the floats.

“We wanted to beat all the traffic that was here, so we walked about five blocks down that way so that we would get here on time and find good spacing for the babies to watch,” one woman said.

Serving as the parade's Grand Marshal was 2014 Boston Marathon winner and San Diegan Meb Keflezghi, though his turn got off to a slow start. His float would not start, so many stepped in to give it a push.

The event is typically held the day of the Holiday Bowl, but because of cruise ship activities, the parade was rescheduled for the day before. The festivities all started with the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals, which pitted eight of the fastest dachshunds in the West against each other.

"Ah I am so happy and I am so proud of this little guy," said the winner's owner Lois Hernandez. "It's all about him. He has so much heart. He's just amazing." 

Runners in the Bumble Bee Seafoods 5K took off at 2:45 p.m. in front of thousands of spectators, officially kicking off the parade.

Following along were the balloons and nine bands, including the USC Trojan marching band. The Trojans take on the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday night in the Holiday Bowl.

The parade route started on North Harbor Drive in front of the County Administration Building and ended on West Harbor Drive by the Navy Complex.

To ensure a smooth and safe parade weekend, the Metropolitan Transit System extended Green Line Trolley Service between Mission Valley and downtown San Diego before the parade. There was also extended service after the parade until crowds died down.

If you're attending Saturday's Holiday Bowl, MTS is providing more direct Green Line trolley service to Qualcomm Stadium starting at 12:51 p.m. Trains will run every seven and a half minutes. Trains will run in both directions after the game as needed. You can download the app here.

Click here for a map of the parade route.

For more information about the parade and the Bowl games, click here or call 619-283-5808.

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