Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with family, parades and food

Friday, November 29, 2002

Americans marked Thanksgiving on Thursday with parades full of music and color, a helping hand for the poor, and the comfort and joy of gathering with family and friends.

The 76th annual Macy's parade in New York City featured a dozen marching bands, the debut of a Charlie Brown balloon and the return of Kermit the Frog after a 12-year absence. The lighthearted tone was in contrast with the more patriotic display last year, weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11.

"I'm 67 years old and it's been a dream of my life to come to see the parade. My dream has come true," said Gloria Aponte, who traveled to New York from San Juan, Puerto Rico, with her family.

Her 7-year-old grandson, Manuel DeJuan, stood on a railing to see better, exclaiming with wonder at each balloon and float that passed, even one depicting an ice cream cone.

"It's never too cold for ice cream," he said as temperatures hovered in the 20s.

Detroit's parade had as its grand marshal longtime Detroit Tigers' broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who retired this year. Riding in a flat called Cinderella's Carriage, he met with boisterous cheers from the crowd.

The parade featured an oversized Elmo balloon, a Motown-themed float as well as the Stanley Cup, which the Detroit Red Wings won in June.

Bringing phones

But fun and pageantry were only part of the holiday scene.

In Wisconsin, U.S. Cellular employees visited homeless shelters throughout Wisconsin, bringing cellular phones so people could call their loved ones for free.

"A woman here just called her 2-year-old daughter who's in California," said volunteer Amy York, who brought 11 phones to the Salvation Army in Milwaukee.

She said she was having a tough time keeping the phones charged because so many people were calling all over the country.

In Atlanta, Everlena Baugh used to volunteer for the annual Hosea Feed the Homeless and Hungry Thanksgiving Dinner. On Thursday -- thanks to a layoff five months ago -- she was on the other side of the serving line, hoping that the dinner would bring good cheer and the event's job placement service will help her, too.

"The economy is way down," said Baugh, who is not homeless but needs a job to keep up with her bills. "You've got to do the best you can to make ends meet. You're pounding the pavement to try to find work."

Elisabeth Omilami, organizer of the event founded by her father, the late Rev. Hosea Williams, said corporate donations were down 40 percent.

"We're serving not just the homeless but also the working poor," she said.

For American Muslims, the Thanksgiving holiday this year fell in the middle of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, when people fast from dawn until dusk. Ramadan ends Dec. 6.

"We'll have Thanksgiving dinner instead of Thanksgiving lunch," said Dr. Hamza Brimah, a Greenwood, Miss., physician who immigrated from Nigeria.

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