Thanksgiving in Chicago: 86th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, Turkey Trot, free meals

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thanksgiving is here and Chicago has a day filled with festive events for the whole community.

It's a time honored tradition for thousands of families in Chicago as many gathered to experience on the Thanksgiving Day Parade in the Loop.

A cascade of sound echoed up State Street Thursday morning for Chicago's 86th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Thunderous drums and cheers from thousands of people kicking off the holiday.

Organizers said there were 90 groups performing this year.

"It just warms your heart, you know. This brings community together and just makes it a great day to spend together as a city and a family," said Rachael Link, who brought her kids down to enjoy the show.

Not only was it a special chance to see big balloons, but the event also became a convenient back up plan.

"The turkey for some reason did not thaw. So it's hard as a rock," she said.

With food on the brain, luckily spectators could munch on some Garrett's Popcorn.

However, 6-year-old spectator Rhett Miller said he's looking to eat even more.

"Five pounds! I'm really hungry today," he said.

Parade participants, like the Windy City Ghostbusters, will surely work up a big appetite too. They marched from Ida B. Wells North Drive to Randolph Street.

"There's no word to describe just being out there and seeing people cheer and you get to wave at the people. That's so much fun," Windy City Ghostbuster Bob Anderson said.

"I can't believe we're here. I can't believe we're here. I'm so thankful," said Lisa Dawson, whose son is marching in the parade.

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Dozens of volunteers dished out 2,500 meals from Levy Hospitality at the Salvation Army Freedom Center this Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, dozens of volunteers served up 2,500 meals from Levy Hospitality at the Salvation Army Freedom Center.

Volunteer Ronald Coleman said he has much to be thankful for.

"I used to be homeless and didn't have anything," said Coleman, who now works as a licensed plumber. "Now it's unbelievable with the blessings, I have more than enough. So I give back. I reach out to help."

The spirit of generosity was spread across the city, including to Sweet Holy Spirit Church near South Chicago.

Bishop Larry Trotter honored the late civil rights icon Rev. Clay Evans and 150 Chicago police officers.

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Immanuel Luthern Church in Palatine hosted a Thanksgiving celebration for dozens of recruits training at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes.

A special Thanksgiving cerebration was held for a group of sailors at a northwest suburban church.

Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palatine welcomed dozens of recruits from Naval Station Great Lakes with a turkey meal, fixings and sweet treats.

Pastor Warren Schilf said it's a way to thank those who are training to protect our country.

"A lot of our families have a deep heart connection to those that served our country because they have sons or daughters who have served," Schilf said.

The recruits have been training at the naval base for weeks, working to transform from a civilian into a sailor. They're each away from their families during the holidays.

The church pulled together enough cell phones so each recruit could make a call to check in with their loved ones.

Recruit Brandon Hunter called his mom who's back home in Indianapolis.

"Just hearing her voice brought me back to reality," Hunter said.

The sailor recruits graduate in less than two weeks, but they said spending the holiday together brought them closer.

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Thanksgiving is here and Chicago has a day filled with festive events for the whole community.

Meanwhile, thousands of runners took part in the 42nd Annual Turkey Trot Race in Chicago's Lincoln Park. The race features a 5-K and an 8-K for adult runners. Kids can participate in the Plymouth Rock Ramble Race presented by Byline Bank. Donations for the races benefit the Great Chicago Food Depository.

Some enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner with Chicago police officers from the 2nd District. The food was provided by Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles, and the free public event featured live music and giveaways.

Some other events happening in our area this Thanksgiving include, a dinner for 2,500 Salvation Army clients made from scratch by Levy.

The Gary alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority will also host a free community dinner. Organizers are making special deliveries to homeless and domestic violence shelters.

Meson Sabika in Naperville will also host 1,800 guests for free Thanksgiving meals. The restaurant owners said they have 250 reservations and plan to feed those suffering from emotional, physical or financial challenges.

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The Target on State Street in downtown Chicago is one of many big box stores opening their doors in advance of the Black Friday shopping extravaganza.

Some Chicago-area residents are hunting for holiday shopping deals after finishing their Thanksgiving meals.

Shoppers started searching for Black Friday bargains early on Thanksgiving Day.

More than 165 million people are expected to shop on Thanksgiving, through Cyber Monday, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
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