- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

NEW YORK

The 82nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wound its way through Manhattan streets under sunny skies Thursday, as thousands of marchers carried giant balloons past throngs of holiday revelers cheering them along the route.

Quincy Kersbergen, 11, of Wyckoff, N.J., found a prime viewing spot - perched on a police barricade near the beginning of the parade - and proclaimed herself a big fan of a giant dog balloon.

“This is just fantastic,” she said. “So amazing to be here in person. I’m just so excited about today.”

New to the revelry this year were Buzz Lightyear, the square-jawed, action-figure astronaut from the 1995 film “Toy Story,” Horton, the compassionate elephant of Dr. Seuss books, and a five-story Smurf, a blue, gnome-like creature popularized by a TV show that began in 1981. Old favorites like Kermit and the Energizer Bunny are also back.

About 3.5 million spectators were expected to view the parade in person, and 50 million more to watch it on television. The 2.5-mile route wound from Central Park to Herald Square, in front of Macy’s flagship store.

Crews on Wednesday inflated the 13 giant balloons and 31 smaller ones. Each giant balloon requires more than 5,000 cubic feet of helium.

Among the smaller balloons was a newcomer that pays tribute to graffiti artist Keith Haring, who died in 1990. The parade also was to feature 28 floats, 10 marching bands and performances by Miley Cyrus, Trace Adkins, James Taylor and the Radio City Rockettes.

At a staging area near Macy’s, people milled around in costumes: clowns, cowboys, pirates, chefs - someone carrying a fake pie the size of a Christmas wreath.

“I’m so excited, … The crowds, just seeing it in person,” said parade-goer Phyllis Grodnicki of Plainsboro, N.J.

The parade, which began in 1924 and was canceled for two years during World War II, also provides a coveted yearly spotlight for Broadway productions. This year, cast members of “Hair,” “In the Heights,” “The Little Mermaid,” “South Pacific” and “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” performed.

In Detroit, thousands braved near-freezing temperatures in hats, mittens and scarves to stake prime spots to view the city’s parade, which has been held for more than 80 years.

Harry Vanuden, a 45-year-old Chrysler LLC worker, said he was grateful to still have his job this Thanksgiving. He’s among 200 remaining employees at Chrysler’s Mack engine plant in Detroit. Two years ago, he said they numbered 1,500.

“I’ve been a toolmaker for 26 years,” said Mr. Vanuden, who lives in the Detroit suburb of Warren. “You hope for the best. I’m just thankful I’m still there.”

Kelly Smith, 44, and her husband Tom, 46, brought their 4-year-old daughter Annalise to her first Thanksgiving Day parade. “We’re just happy with what we have, and we’re hopeful the economy will rebound,” Mrs. Smith said.

President Bush spent his final Thanksgiving in office at his Camp David, Md., retreat, thankful for his almost-expired “privilege of serving as the president.” President-elect Barack Obama stayed in Chicago to “have a whole bunch of people over to the house” and squeeze in some Christmas shopping.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday night on ABC, the Obamas told Barbara Walters they planned to have at least 60 people at their Chicago home for the holiday. Michelle Obama said she’s not cooking, explaining that she gets “an out” because her husband ran for president.

Mr. Bush on Thursday telephoned 11 members of the U.S. armed forces stationed around the world to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and to say that he admires them.

“I’m very proud of your service to our country. Thanks for stepping up and honoring your country. Thank you for your courage,” he said, according to a statement by press secretary Dana Perino.

For Mr. Bush, this Thanksgiving is proving a time for nostalgia. He always reflects a bit at Thanksgiving, but he went further this year.

He gave thanks to troops and volunteers, to teachers and pastors, to all the American people. Then he gave thanks for his wife and twin daughters - “two Thanksgiving miracles who we were blessed with 27 years ago” - and that his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, was doing well after being hospitalized.

“Most of all,” he said, “I thank the American people for the tremendous privilege of serving as the president.”

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