Chicagoans enjoy annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) This year, weather conditions made watching the parade a bit of a challenge, but parade goers were not disappointed with the show.

Everyone was in the spirit for the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade as thousands of people lined Chicago's State Street for the annual extravaganza.

"I've never been to a big parade like this one before. We had to get up early, but its pretty exciting," Kaitlynn Hershberger said.

Cloudy skies and cold temperatures did nothing to dampen the sounds of the season as Honorary Parade Grand Marshall Ronald McDonald led the 76th year of the holiday procession, which originated in the 1930s as the Christmas Caravan and was created to help lift the spirits of a city in the grips of the great depression.

"We've got a great show this year. With the economy it was important to put on a good show and we did. We have great characters, balloons," said Phil Purevich, Executive Director, McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade.

The crowds were not only entertained by the stars of the hit musical Million Dollar Quartet, but by the usual fan favorites of marching bands, equestrian acts and dozens of floats.

"I love the bands and floats. That's what I like most," Tasha Grant said.

Dave Howle, Junior said his favorite part was "balloons. ...They're so huge."

All eyes were to the skies as each of a dozen cartoon-themed giant helium ballons floated up Chicago's great street. First-year balloon wrangler Kim Killingsworth had her hands full with Pilgrim Garfield.

"You sort of have to go with the wind," Killingsworth said.

Not to be outdone, the 53 foot-long Underwriters Laboratories float made a showing as the longest float in the parade's history.

"It's just exciting. We want to stress safety and want everybody to be safe during the holiday season," said Regina Sibby, Underwriters Laboratories.

Once again, Thursday's holiday celebration highlighted Chicagoland's diversity, as a Bolivian dance troupe and others brought a unique holiday flare.

"It's good for everyone to learn from everyone about each culture, not just their own, and it's good for the kids. That's why I bring them," Stephanie Grant said.

The festivities may be ending, but not the holiday spirit. Most will have a Thanksgiving feast with family before preparing for holiday shopping.

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