Chicagoans celebrate at Thanskgiving parade

November 24, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A dozen big balloons, hundreds of musicians and thousands of people all combined at this year's McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Family tradition. We started when she was 2 years old and we've been here ever since. She's 9 now," said Irving Brown, who attended the parade with his daughter.

For 65-year-old Sharon Knitt, the experience means one less item on her personal "to-do" list.

"It's something I've always wanted to do and I wanted to bring my grandson," she said. "We tried last year, but it was so bitter cold that we didn't come down."

Like in years past, the 78th annual extravaganza made its way up Chicago's State Street.

"An event like this, a great parade, provides an opportunity for the community to come together, and that's really what it's all about, people coming together and celebrating together, brining their families out here, creating a lifetime of memories," said Phil Purevich, parade organizer.

The tradition featured not only giant helium balloons of popular characters like Fred Flintstone and Teddy Turkey but also marching bands, plenty floats and entertainment.

"We always come out every year and have a great time," said Earl Famas, Bare Foot Hawaiians, who was in the parade.

Originally called the Christmas Caravan in the 1930s, the Thanksgiving parade was originally created to help lift the spirits of residents suffering through the Great Depression. And with today's tough economic times, it was no different as most parade-goers gave thanks for another joyful holiday season.

"You get to be with all these people. No better way of celebrating with the rest of the family and just meeting new friends, it's fun being out here," said Selene Gatica, parade goer.

Organizers added a closing to this year's parade. But the show stopper was Santa Claus, who officially ushered in the holiday season.

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