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Nov 27, 1:16 AM EST

Thanksgiving: Turkey, parades, shopping deals

AP Photo
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

NEW YORK (AP) -- Turkey, stuffing and a helium-filled Thomas the Tank Engine were on the menu as friends and families gathered across the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Here's a look at how Americans prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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GIANTS IN THE SKY

The nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will include six new giant balloons including Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington bear and the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. The annual event brings out throngs of people along its midtown Manhattan parade route, ending in front of the store's flagship location.

On Wednesday, passers-by on the Upper West Side got a sneak preview, as the giant balloons were inflated with helium in the neighborhood around the American Museum of Natural History.

"It's really cool, they're huge," said San Francisco resident Ella Missan. Daisy Elliot of Boston, who said she's been coming to see the balloons since she was little, agreed. "It's really exciting for me to see the balloons year after year," she said.

The parade's executive producer, Amy Kule, said organizers were glad wintry weather that made sidewalks slick and travel treacherous on Wednesday was expected to be gone by Thursday.

"We're suffering through a little bit of this now but the end result is really going to be a beautiful parade," she said.

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TRAVEL TROUBLES

Rain and snow on Wednesday made getting around on one of the busiest travel days of the year a chaotic experience for some. The sloppy mixture caused hundreds of flights to be grounded in the Northeast.

Some travelers tried to beat the storm by flying out earlier, and airlines tried to be helpful by waiving re-booking fees. But many flights already were filled, leaving travelers with few options.

The roads weren't much better. By midafternoon, the line between rain and snow went along Interstate 95, the major roadway connecting Boston to Washington, and accidents abounded. Snowfall totals were expected to be as much as 6 to 12 inches in the higher elevations west of I-95.

The AAA estimated that 41.3 million travelers would be on the road between Wednesday and Sunday. That's up 4.3 percent from last year.

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING

To the delight of some and consternation of others, it's increasingly become commonplace to see stores open on Thanksgiving, as retailers try to entice shoppers inside and kick off the holiday shopping season a day earlier than the traditional Black Friday. Some of the stores open for at least part of the day on the holiday include Kmart, Target, Sears, Macy's and Wal-Mart. Other stores, like Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom and Costco, are closed.

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