Thanksgiving parade brings cheer to storm-hit NYC

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The Kung Fu Panda balloon, right, participates in the 86th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, Nov 22, 2012, in New York. AP PHOTO/ LOUIS LANZANO

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 American harvest 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.

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 Fahrenheit (8.3 Celsius). Some parade-goers had camped out to get a good spot, staying snug in sleeping bags. Others came well-prepared with folding chairs.

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

Start of holiday shopping

For some, the once-sacrosanct feast now starts the holiday shopping season—and store openings keep getting earlier. Black Friday now starts on Thanksgiving Day itself at many stores and some shoppers eagerly race from their dinner tables to line up for bargains, delaying their second helpings until they’ve purchased the latest toys or electronic devices.

The popular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on television, is known for its giant balloon characters.

This year, the giant balloons were to welcome Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf. A new version of Hello Kitty was to be included while Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy remained in the lineup. Real life stars were to include Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of “The X Factor.”

Other cities planned to have showy marching bands, cartoon character balloons, and musical extravaganzas, as well. Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit were among the big cities hosting parades.

Reflective Bloomberg

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.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, whose New York district includes the heavily battered Rockaways neighborhood, said he planned to stop by Thanksgiving dinners at three churches and a school.

“They are still giving thanks,” Meeks said of his constituents. “They are thankful that they’re alive and thankful to the people who are coming to help them.”

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