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Americans Observe Thanksgiving

November 24, 2000

Parades, politics and protests. Movie and music stars at homeless shelters. The memory of a civil rights activist. Thanksgiving meant something different to millions of Americans observing the holiday.

For die-hard parade spectators, it was a chance to enjoy an endless stream of floats, cheerleaders and clowns _ even in frigid temperatures.

``I wanted my kids to have the same memories I did when I was a child. My father brought us every year to the parade,″ said Henrietta Kershaw, one of thousands of Philadelphians who lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway Thursday to watch the city’s 81-year-old Thanksgiving Parade, the nation’s oldest.

In New York City, the trademark display of helium balloons and marching bands in the 74th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place without a hitch despite a threat of balloon-stopping winds the day before.

The three-hour event featured 14 helium balloons, 20 floats and 29 units of clowns. The Mickey Mouse balloon _ a 40-foot tall drum-toting rodent in a red and gold uniform _ returned after 18 years.

``It’s turkey day. It’s really important to make people laugh,″ said Silvia Stein, 26, who, along with her brother Guido, 23, rode the train from Stamford, Conn., in turkey costumes made by their mother.

For scores of volunteers, the holiday was a chance to feed the hungry.

In Atlanta, an estimated 30,000 Thanksgiving dinners were dished out at the 30th annual Hosea’s Feed the Hungry and Homeless, founded by Hosea Williams. The 74-year-old civil rights veteran died last week of complications from kidney cancer.

``I just wanted to be a part of this. As a young black man, I aspire to follow in (Williams’) footsteps,″ said rapper Sean ``Puffy″ Combs, who funded this year’s seven-course dinner. He was joined by Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes and Olympian Gail Devers.

Edward James Olmos helped out at the Fred Jordan Mission in Los Angeles, where about 1,000 people sat down to plates of turkey and potatoes.

``The more you give, the more you will receive. This is food for the soul,″ the actor said.

For the first time at the 150-member Thomas Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., the men took on the challenge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. More than 100 meals were served by noon.

``Last night was really fun with nothing but all men here in the church, and we’re all putting our heads together to cook this and cook that. And it came out excellent,″ said Deacon Michael Booth, who headed a crew of about 20. ``But we’re trying to keep it a secret from our wives.″

In Baltimore, councilwoman Bea Gaddy invited the entire city to her Thanksgiving table _ more than 1,000 turkeys were donated for the meal _ inside a school lunchroom.

``I like to come over here and get a nice hot meal ... and Miss Gaddy is always good to us,″ said Thomas Long, 36.

American Indians marked the holiday differently. In southeast Colorado, the four-day, 187-mile Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run, began where nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians were killed in 1864 by Colorado Militia members.

In Massachusetts, a group of about 250 Native Americans participated in the National Day of Mourning, an annual event commemorating atrocities upon Indians since the Pilgrims stopped in Plymouth in 1620.

``They think Thanksgiving is a happy thing, like New Year’s or Christmas, but it’s not for us Indians,″ said Sam Sapiel, 69, a Penobscot Indian.

Striking union members at The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave up their holiday to work the picket lines, standing in the cold and rain under the watchful eyes of security guards.

After Wednesday’s travel frenzy, a relative lull settled throughout most of the country.

United Airlines canceled just nine of its 2,300 flights, a significant drop from the number canceled earlier this week during the pre-holiday rush.

At Dallas’ Love Field, which services only domestic flights, traffic was slow, said operations spokesman Nick Graham.

``It’s very calm, the day has not been bad at all,″ he said. ``It’s actually slower than normal.″

The next travel crush will be on Sunday, when 2.24 million passengers are expected make it the busiest day in U.S. airlines history, according to the Air Transport Association.

In New Mexico, travellers were stalled by a blanket of snow and rain that snarled traffic on Interstate 40, one of two main highways through the state.

Even Thanksgiving could not stop the presidential recount race in Florida. Broward County election officials _ feasting on pizza and soda, instead of turkey _ gave up their holiday in an effort to meet the Sunday deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court.

Suzanne Gunzburger, a Democrat and member of the canvassing board, greeted courtroom observers in the morning with: ``Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re enjoying the parade as much as I am.″