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On Thanksgiving, crowd soaks up cheer at parade

Atmosphere upbeat despite the downturn

Brendan McDermid/ReutersThe SpongeBob SquarePants balloon made its way down Broadway during the 82d annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City yesterday. Brendan McDermid/ReutersThe SpongeBob SquarePants balloon made its way down Broadway during the 82d annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City yesterday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
By Colleen Long
Associated Press / November 28, 2008
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NEW YORK - Val Bonner planned for a decade to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on her 50th birthday, and this year she got her wish. She joined throngs of holiday revelers in Manhattan cheering the giant balloons and thousands of marchers.

"It's just fabulous - I cried when I saw it," said Bonner, of Steilacoom, Wash. "This is my gift to myself. I've been saving for years for it. It's a dream come true."

Bonner, husband Frank, and son Jack stood with shrieking, delighted children throwing confetti as the 82d annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade wound its way through Manhattan streets under sunny skies.

Quincy Kersbergen 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!" the 11-year-old Kersbergen 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 also were back.

Organizers said more than a million spectators viewed the parade in person, with another 50 million watching on television. The 2.5-mile route winds from Central Park West and West 77th Street 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, much of which supplier Linde North America intended to recover and recycle, said Nick Haines, the company's helium director for the Americas. Last year Linde tested the process of sucking the gas out of the balloons, compressing it, and later purifying it for resale.

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

"She's just the coolest!" 6-year-old Isabella Muccio said of Cyrus.

The atmosphere along the route was upbeat and jovial despite the nation's economic downturn.

President Bush was spending Thanksgiving at his Camp David retreat, thankful for his almost-expired "privilege of serving as the president."

President-elect Barack Obama was staying in Chicago to "have a whole bunch of people over to the house" and squeeze in some Christmas shopping.

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