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Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

November 27, 1998

At the Hotel Turkey in Turkey, Texas, there wasn’t much doubt about the Thanksgiving Day menu.

``Of course we had turkey,″ says innkeeper Suzie Johnson. ``And dressing, sweet potato casserole, hot rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies.″

They were among millions of Americans who had similar meals Thursday as they commemorated the Pilgrims’ celebration of the good harvest of 1621.

Rain dampened the parades in New England and in the Northwest _ but not the appetites in a nation that counted its blessings by feasting on its bounty.

Thousands celebrated the start of the holiday season in New York at the 72nd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

``The rain won’t stop us,″ said Beverly Givens of Oak Grove, Ill., who attended with her husband and two children. ``We’ve watched this on TV for so many years that we had to come.″

Helium leaks kept three giant balloons out of the parade, and Wild Thing, a character based on the Maurice Sendak classic ``Where the Wild Things Are,″ was grounded after it snagged a tree in Central Park.

In Houston, 1,300 volunteers provided free turkey dinners to about 17,000 after the city’s parade.

``Bands are playing, the sun is shining and everybody is having a good time,″ said Superfeast chairwoman Tammy Bohon. ``We had plenty of volunteers _ we had to rotate our servers to give everybody an opportunity _ and our guests were very appreciative.″

On Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Charles Fleischer, the voice of cartoon hero Roger Rabbit, dished out free turkey and jokes at the Laugh Factory.

``It’s so much fun, there are families, homeless people, actors and comedians. We’re open to everybody,″ said club manager Wendy Overend. ``Any one in Hollywood who is on their own is more than welcome.″

Don McNelly, a 78-year-old retired businessman who has completed 523 marathons, warmed up for his supper by running a 6-mile ``turkey trot″ in Greece, N.Y., outside Rochester.

``I’m too heavy, I’m too old and I’m too slow to be doing this,″ he said. But McNelly did identify the method in the madness. ``It’s a feeling of exhilaration, no problems in the world. You just feel good. You have the excuse to eat more.″

``More″ is not a word Edna Hall of Montpelier, Va., cares to hear anytime soon. Mrs. Hall baked and basted 36 turkeys for 300 homeless people at a Salvation Army dinner in Richmond.

She laughed as she got ready to go home to feed her own family. ``Honey, I don’t want to serve any more food,″ she said.

Seventeen floats, 16 giant helium balloons and 14 bands marched through Philadelphia in the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day parade. Families lined up along Ben Franklin Parkway for the 79th annual event despite the drizzling rain.

``We canceled Thanksgiving so I could come see this,″ said Susan Bennett of Drexel Hill, Pa. ``Every year I cook, but this year I said: ’Stay home. I’m going to Philly.‴

As many as 20,000 people streamed through Turner Field in Atlanta for the 30th ``Feed the Hungry″ effort. Besides food, volunteers donated an array of services, including haircuts, health screenings, counseling, even the use of stadium showers.

``We do more than feed hungry bellies,″ said the Rev. Hosea Williams, a veteran civil rights activist and organizer of the feast. ``We feed hungry minds and hungry spirits.″

Not everyone was celebrating, however. Hundreds of Native Americans and their supporters rallied to commemorate the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass.

``As Native Americans, we have no reason to give thanks for the European invasion of our land,″ said Mahtowin Munro of United American Indians of New England.

The march was relatively peaceful, unlike last year’s protest which was marred by the arrest of some two dozen protesters following a clash between police and demonstrators.

``It’s been a very nice, quiet day,″ said Plymouth police Lt. Kevin Fahy.

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