NEW YORK (AP) - The big balloons soared along with the crowd's spirits Thursday as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the streets of New York City.
There'd been some concerns about whether the wind could keep 16 giant balloons grounded, but the cherished tradition prevailed.
"We thought they'd find a way to pull it off," said parade-goer John Mispagel, of San Jose, Calif. "It's really fun seeing so many people having such a great time."
Balloon handlers were keeping a tight grip on their inflated characters and held them fairly close to the ground in tree-lined areas. The wind was around 26 mph.
Mispagel and his wife, Susan, said Sonic the Hedgehog got caught on a tree while rounding a corner near the start of the parade route; handlers used cutters on a rope to free the balloon.
The cheering throngs were bundled against a 30-degree chill, but the sun was shining. Some in the crowd lifted small children onto their shoulders.
An excited 9-year-old Lily Thomolaris, of Pittsburgh, was delighted to "see all the balloons." But she especially thought a big turkey was really cool.
Matthew Ragbe, 11, lives in the neighborhood and came out to enjoy the sights. His twin brother decided not to leave their warm apartment.
"He's probably watching the parade on TV," Matthew said. "Loser."
"Lazy is more like the operative word," joked their mother, Alison Ragbe.
The Ragbe family was on 77th Street, where a director of sorts merged floats and balloons with bands and clowns by shouting cheerful instructions through a loudspeaker. He called out to the Wicked Witch.
"Please join the parade! We don't want you to miss your moment!" And merge she did.
"I don't see Toto," Michael Tellone, 19, of Pelham, shouted from behind the police barricades.
Farther down the more-than-40-block parade route, 11-year-old Ema Kelly, of Manhasset, was protecting confetti buried 4 inches deep in her knitted hat as she awaited the parade pinnacle for many children: "the end with Santa."
She shared confetti collection duties with her neighborhood friend, 10-year-old Matthew O'Connor.
"He forgot his hat so he's helping me collect it, and then we're going to split it on the bus ride home," she said.
Nearby, Columbia Law School student Andrew Leff said he had arrived at 5 a.m. to get a first-row spot to watch the parade for the 23rd time in his 24 years.
"I've never known it any other way and wouldn't want to," he said of his prime viewing spot.
Some were already looking forward to the rest of the day.
Christina Margiotta, of Elmsford, said she was heading home immediately afterward to finish cooking the big meal.
"We left grandma home cooking the turkey, so we're good," she said.
And Greg Packer, of Huntington, said he would be at the stores as soon as they open.
"I expect turkey, and I expect shopping," he said. A few blocks away, a line had already formed outside a Best Buy store, which was scheduled to open at 6 p.m.
In Philadelphia, gusty winds of 28 mph limited use of balloons during the city's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with officials citing concern for the safety of participants and spectators. Instead of flying along the entire route, the balloons soared only around Eakins Oval and the broadcast area near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were largely unaffected by the weather.
Jim Leyland, former manager of the Detroit Tigers, served as grand marshal of that city's Thanksgiving Day parade, which is billed as the nation's second largest, behind New York's. Revelers braved snow showers and slick roads to attend the festivities, which included about two dozen floats and a performance by singer Ruben Studdard.
In Washington, President Barack Obama and his family paused to celebrate a quiet holiday at the White House. Their menu was quintessential Thanksgiving, including turkey, honey-baked ham, cornbread stuffing, greens and six choices of pie.
In New York City, volunteers from Citymeals-on-Wheels helped escort dozens of elderly residents from neighborhoods affected by Superstorm Sandy to a restaurant feast in Manhattan. The organization funded almost 20,500 Thanksgiving meals, including 13,000 delivered in advance to homebound elderly.
On Wednesday, two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole.