Americans mark Thanksgiving with parades, turkey

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Turkey, stuffing and a helium-filled Thomas the Tank Engine are on the menu as friends and families gathered across the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Here's a look at how Americans are celebrating:

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AND THE PARADE IS OFF

Oohing and ahhing spectators of all ages lined the route of the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which counted Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington bear and the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger among its six new giant balloons.

It was around 37 degrees with a hint of drizzle and light winds as clowns shot a burst of confetti from canisters to get the show rolling.

The honor of leading the parade went to the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band from Western Carolina University. Asked where that's located, drummer Will Walker said with a chuckle: "It's a dot on the map you will never hear from the rest of your life."

The musicians from Cullowhee, North Carolina, hoped to set two records Thursday: one for most cymbal players (55) and one for largest band (505 members).

Earlier, clown Steve Smith passed dozens of workers trapped under netting holding the big floats down.

"How long's your sentence behind bars?" he joked.

Smith, a clown for 12 years, loves to make children happy. "The kids, they are the ones who make the parade," he said.

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STORIED HISTORY OF PARADE

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade featured animals from the Central Park Zoo.

Back in 1924, the event was known as the Macy's Christmas Parade.

The giant balloons arrived on the scene in 1927. Felix the Cat was the first character balloon.

In 1929, helium balloons were released over New York City after the parade. They were equipped with return address labels, and those who found one received a special gift.

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TRAVEL TROUBLES

Rain and snow on Wednesday made getting around on one of the busiest travel days of the year a chaotic experience for some. The sloppy mixture caused hundreds of flights to be grounded in the Northeast.

Some travelers tried to beat the storm by flying out earlier, and airlines tried to be helpful by waiving re-booking fees. But many flights already were filled, leaving travelers with few options.

The roads weren't much better. By midafternoon, the line between rain and snow went along Interstate 95, the major roadway connecting Boston to Washington, and accidents abounded. Snowfall totals were expected to be as much as 6 to 12 inches in the higher elevations west of I-95.

The AAA estimated that 41.3 million travelers would be on the road between Wednesday and Sunday. That's up 4.3 percent from last year.

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING

To the delight of some and consternation of others, it's increasingly become commonplace to see stores open on Thanksgiving, as retailers try to entice shoppers inside and kick off the holiday shopping season a day earlier than the traditional Black Friday. Some of the stores open for at least part of the day on the holiday include Kmart, Target, Sears, Macy's and Wal-Mart. Other stores, like Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and Costco, are closed.