NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 24, 2012: The SpongeBob SquarePants balloon is prepared to make way through NYC streets during the 85th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
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Balloons, spirits soar at NYC Thanksgiving parade

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NEW YORK (AP) -- The big balloons soared along with the crowd's spirits Thursday as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the streets of New York City.

There'd been some concerns about whether the wind could keep 16 giant balloons grounded, but the cherished tradition prevailed.

"We thought they'd find a way to pull it off," said parade-goer John Mispagel, of San Jose, Calif. "It's really fun seeing so many people having such a great time."

RELATED: Photos from the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Balloon handlers were keeping a tight grip on their inflated characters and held them fairly close to the ground in tree-lined areas. The wind was around 26 mph.

Mispagel and his wife, Susan, said Sonic the Hedgehog got caught on a tree while rounding a corner near the start of the parade route; handlers used cutters on a rope to free the balloon.

The cheering throngs were bundled against a 30-degree chill, but the sun was shining. Some in the crowd lifted small children onto their shoulders.

An excited 9-year-old Lily Thomolaris, of Pittsburgh, was delighted to "see all the balloons." But she especially thought a big turkey was really cool.

Matthew Ragbe, 11, lives in the neighborhood and came out to enjoy the sights. His twin brother decided not to leave their warm apartment.

"He's probably watching the parade on TV," Matthew said. "Loser."

"Lazy is more like the operative word," joked their mother, Alison Ragbe.

In Philadelphia, gusty winds of 28 mph limited use of balloons during the city's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with officials citing concern for the safety of participants and spectators. Instead of flying along the entire route, the balloons soared only around Eakins Oval and the broadcast area near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were largely unaffected by the weather.

Jim Leyland, former manager of the Detroit Tigers, served as grand marshal of that city's Thanksgiving Day parade, which is billed as the nation's second largest, behind New York's. Revelers braved snow showers and slick roads to attend the festivities, which included about two dozen floats and a performance by singer Ruben Studdard.

In Washington, President Barack Obama and his family paused to celebrate a quiet holiday at the White House. Their menu was quintessential Thanksgiving, including turkey, honey-baked ham, cornbread stuffing, greens and six choices of pie.

In New York City, volunteers from Citymeals-on-Wheels helped escort dozens of elderly residents from neighborhoods affected by Superstorm Sandy to a restaurant feast in Manhattan. The organization funded almost 20,500 Thanksgiving meals, including 13,000 delivered in advance to homebound elderly.

On Wednesday, two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole.

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Associated Press writers Jake Pearson, Seth Borenstein, Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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