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Americans Stick With Thanksgiving Traditions _ Turkey, Parades and Family

November 29, 1996

While most Americans bundled up for Thanksgiving parades, relaxed with family or dished out food to the less fortunate, eight North Carolina families have a special reason to remember this holiday. They came home cradling baby girls adopted from China.

``It’s the most special Thanksgiving Day ever for me,″ said Ken Laws, who arrived to cheers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport with his wife, Susan, and their new daughter, Hannah. ``It’s a culmination of a long period of waiting and wondering if this day was ever going to come.″

Evan Hunziker also counted himself among the Americans glad to be home for the holiday. He was released this week after three months in North Korea on spying charges, which he denies.

``I’m having Thanksgiving dinner with my father,″ Hunziker, 26, said from his father’s home in Parkland, Wash. ``I’m happy to be back here.″

Other Americans found a warm welcome and a warm meal at shelters and community centers where volunteers helped brighten their day.

``If you can’t have family, this is the best you can get,″ Roy Viera, 28, said at a Paterson, N.J., shelter. ``Here we all feel at home.″

In Atlanta, the Rev. Hosea Williams’ annual holiday dinner fed an estimated 35,000 people. Elsewhere, restaurants pitched in to feed the needy.

U.S. soldiers serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina shared their Thanksgiving with Defense Secretary William Perry in a festive mess hall in Tuzla.

In addition to the main meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and three kinds of pie, plates of mixed nuts and candy overflowed on every table.

``We are kind of family,″ said Spc. Rob Clark of Bedford, Va. ``But you’d always rather be home.″

Millions started the day on the streets of New York City and Detroit, or in front of televisions watching the cities’ parades. The 70th Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York marched on in a record low of 21 degrees.

Corinne Donohue, 8, of Commack, N.Y., wrapped up in a sleeping bag to watch the helium-filled balloons and floats. ``We took off our shoes in here, and it’s warm,″ she said, displaying her socks-clad toes.

Volunteers also visited the elderly and home-bound.

``For a lot of our clients they won’t get any other visit today. It would be just another day alone,″ said Karen Mudd, a board member of Philadelphia’s Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly.

President Clinton and his family spent Thanksgiving at Camp David, Md., enjoying a traditional dinner of turkey with cornbread stuffing made from a recipe by the president’s late mother, Virginia Kelley.

The only turkey in sight at The Milton Inn near Baltimore was in the smoked turkey salad. There were other birds on the menu _ duck, goose, pheasant and quail _ but no gobblers. The posh eatery hasn’t served roast turkey on Thanksgiving for years.

``We’ve found that people like a change and that’s why they come here,″ co-owner Roland Unger said. ``A lot of people when they call say `You’re not serving turkey, are you?‴

It wasn’t turkey in tiny Pep, Texas, where organizers laid out 5,800 pounds of German sausage for a 1,000-person dinner.

``Sometimes we’ve got a little left over, but it’s all gone before Christmas,″ said Marcy Demel, 65, who has taken part in the annual feed since it began in 1945.

There was turkey on and near the table in Medford, Ore., where Mike Ayers served a plate of ground cornmeal to Strut, a 35-pound bird who might have been the main course elsewhere.

But there was no sign of another family bird, Tom the turkey, the 30-pound pet of Carol Counterman missing in Nazareth, Pa., since Sunday.

``He’ll be on somebody’s Thanksgiving table,″ she predicted.

The holiday is not necessarily a celebration for everyone. For some American Indians, the original feast in 1621 marked the beginning of the end of their freedom and culture.

``There’s pain there,″ said Mary Lee Johns, a Cheyenne River Sioux in Lincoln, Neb. ``Knowing all of this was lost. All of the resources of our people were taken. They’re still being taken.″