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Parades Kick Off Holiday Season

Millions of Americans gathered with family and friends on Thanksgiving to enjoy gut-busting feasts and take in holiday traditions such as football and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, where the big hit was a giant yellow sponge with a red tie.

Thousands of onlookers jammed the streets of New York to see the floating SpongeBob SquarePants, Charlie Brown, and Sesame Street's Grover, along with the scores of other gigantic balloons, floats and bands that mark the traditional kickoff to the holiday season.

Tim O'Connor risked total exhaustion by holding his 4-year-old grandsons Sean and Declan in his arms during the parade.
"The atmosphere of the parade is so friendly," he said. "It makes it a nice event, and it gets them out of the house so that parents can cook dinner."

For SpongeBob, however, the parade almost didn't happen. Forecasters had predicted rain and high winds in New York on Thursday that could have grounded the balloons out of safety concerns. Instead, the winds were barely noticeable and the temperatures hit an unseasonably warm 65 degrees.

From Houston, to Austin, to Atlanta, CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports that turkey, gravy and the works were served to the hungry -- while Mother Nature served up her own speciality in the Midwest.

Nine inches of snow fell in southern Michigan Wednesday. And in Lansing, Mich., a Northwest Airlines jet slid off the runway during landing - but no one was hurt.

In Detroit, however, 30-degree temperatures and biting winds did not stop people from turning out for the annual America's Thanksgiving Parade, which included more than 30 floats, a dozen marching bands and 18 giant balloons.

Nick Nicholson's daughters, Katie, 10, and Lindsay, 3, watched the festivities from a little red wagon, wrapped in fleece from head to toe. He said the family usually watches the parade on TV at home, but they decided to drive into the city this year, stay at a hotel and get up early to watch it in person.

"I wanted to sleep later, but this'll be fun," Katie said.

Meanwhile, travelers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were thankful just to finally get home Thursday. Dozens of flights had been cancelled and delayed.

The first major winter storm of the season stranded hundreds of holiday travelers at the airport overnight after nearly 50 flights were canceled. The National Weather Service said parts of Illinois got up to 8 inches of snow, while up to 9 inches were expected in southern Michigan.

Strong thunderstorms, high winds and icy conditions made driving conditions treacherous for thousands of other travelers.

"It's not worth getting upset about, it's Mother Nature," said Theresa Pixler, whose flight from Chicago to Sioux Falls, S.D., was canceled Wednesday night. She hoped to make it to her final destination in Iowa in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

"You have to take it all in stride. We'll get there eventually."

Across the country, many families opened their homes to servicemembers who couldn't make the trips to see their own families for the holiday.

Joshua Flesher, a 20-year-old Marine based at Fort Knox in Kentucky, was one of four soldiers staying with a family in New Albany, Ind. "If it wasn't for them, I'd be standing duty right now," he said.

Most of the Marines in the program at Fort Knox recently finished boot camp and will likely ship out to Iraq when they finish tank gunnery school.

More than 100 servicemembers in Virginia also enjoyed a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal thanks to families there. Jan and Steve Daum of Gloucester, who were feeding two Army National Guard privates at their home, figured the more guests, the merrier.

"We had done Thanksgiving with just the two of us, and it's not as much fun as with a crowd of people," Jan Daum said. "When you can't be with family, make a family."

In Florida, residents still recovering from the fall's disastrous hurricane season were taking time to be grateful for the little things.

"You're thankful for what didn't happen to you, being right here in this area. You just look around and be thankful," Richard Strong said as he looked outside his house on the barrier island of Sanibel, which was pummeled by Hurricane Charley in September. "The damage is still everywhere and very evident."