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A day of traditions and giving thanks

Around the nation and around the world, Americans followed time-honored traditions in observing the Thanksgiving holiday
The Scooby Doo balloon floats down Broadway during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
The Scooby Doo balloon floats down Broadway during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.Jeff Christensen / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Delighted, shrieking children were barely able to contain themselves Thursday as Barbie rolled past and enormous Shrek and Snoopy balloons floated overhead in the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Unseasonably balmy weather, with temperatures around 60 degrees, helped draw hordes of families to the mid-Manhattan parade route to see the floats, helium balloons, marching bands and roller-blading clowns.

Five-year-old Lauren Geiger of Freeport had no problem ticking off her favorite Macy’s parade characters: Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo.

“And we’re going to see Santa. Did you know that?” said her mother Dorothea Geiger, eliciting a squeal.

‘It’s pretty great’
With each passing balloon or float that was more Disney than Pilgrims’ Mayflower, the shrieks got louder and the squeals more piercing.

“It’s pretty great,” said Jonathan Ratner, of Chatham, N.J., who brought his 13-year-old daughter Rachael.

In Detroit, drizzle, snow and temperatures in the 30s didn’t deter thousands of people from lining up to watch that city’s America’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Some spectators took their eyes off the parade to gawk at a 3-year-old dog named Diamond dressed as Santa Claus, complete with red tasseled cap.

“Last year, she was Minnie  Mouse,” said owner Shelita Porter, 33. “I think of her as my child. And she enjoys her clothes. When I pull her clothes out, she knows it’s time to go.”

The parades headlined observances across the nation that also featured football, including Detroit’s NFL game between the Lions and the Green Bay Packers, and family dinners with too much food on the table.

President Bush, spending the holiday at the Camp David retreat in Maryland, called several men and women serving in the armed forces in Iraq.

“He called to wish the members of the military and their families and the troops that they are serving with a happy Thanksgiving,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “He said ’I can’t tell you how impressed I am by the courage and compassion of our troops.’ He thanked them for their service.”

Making the most of the holiday in Iraq
At the U.S. base called Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, Iraq, the military put on a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner in a mess hall decked out with red, orange and brown paper streamers and other decorations.

Cpl. Brandon Henry, 23, from Winchester, Va., said he has been in the Army for four years and hasn’t spent Thanksgiving in the United States since he joined.

“So it’ll be five Thanksgivings, five Christmases and four birthdays spent away from home, by the time I get done here,” he said. “This is my family here — the Army in general — so I don’t feel like I’m away from home.”

The crew of the International Space Station put together a special Thanksgiving message that was aired on NASA Television and the agency’s Web site —

“We wanted to say happy Thanksgiving to all our NASA viewers,” said Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson, an Iowa native. “We feel particularly privileged and thankful to be up here on board the International Space Station this Thanksgiving, and we’re looking forward to our activities this week. We have a busy week with spacewalks, and we hope that you also are having a great Thanksgiving.”

At the Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Day dinner in Oklahoma City, holiday music wafted from a stage as dozens of volunteers clad in red Salvation Army vests moved from table to table with trays of sliced pumpkin and pecan pies or escorted new arrivals to their place at a table.

“I love Thanksgiving. I love this event,” Salvation Army spokeswoman Heide Brandes said Thursday as she surveyed the scene.

“You have the people who are the haves, and you have the people who are have nots. And this brings them together,” she said.

New attractions, longtime favorites
This year’s Macy’s parade, the 81st, offered a mix of new attractions and longtime favorites, solemn tributes and lighthearted spectacle.

Some 10,000 participants, many of them holding down the buoyant balloons, followed the parade route down the west side of Central Park, then down Broadway through Times Square to the Macy’s store on Herald Square. The lineup included three new balloons, 2,000 cheerleaders, 800 clowns and the Radio City Rockettes.

There were 11 marching bands, including the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, playing in honor of the victims of last spring’s campus shooting.

“The whole experience is special,” said Rich Piasio of Wilmington, N.C. He and his wife wore Virginia Tech sweat shirts as they waited for the band.