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Nov 27, 12:15 PM EST

Americans mark Thanksgiving with parades, turkey


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

Here's a look at how Americans are celebrating:

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A MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY SUCCESS

Oohing and ahhing spectators of all ages lined the route of the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which counted Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington bear and the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger among its six new giant balloons.

It was around 37 degrees with a hint of drizzle and light winds as clowns shot a burst of confetti from canisters to get the show rolling.

"This is great. It's nice to feel so festive for the holidays," said paradegoer Daryl Winchester, 17, of Queens, as she took pictures, waved and shouted encouragement to parade participants.

Steve Smith, a clown of 12 years performing in the parade, said he loves to make children happy.

"The kids, they are the ones who make the parade," he said.

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HOW THE FIRST FAMILY IS CELEBRATING

President Barack Obama is spending a quiet Thanksgiving at the White House where the belly-stuffing menu featured all the holiday's basics.

There's thyme-roasted turkey and honey-baked ham, cornbread stuffing and oyster stuffing, braised winter greens and macaroni and cheese. Don't forget the green bean casserole, sweet potato gratin, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.

If there's room for dessert, the Obamas can pick from among six pies: banana cream, coconut cream, pumpkin, apple, pecan and cherry.

Obama says Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday "because, more than any other, it is uniquely American."

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FERGUSON PROTESTS NEAR PARADE

About six protesters chanting "Justice for Mike Brown!" were handcuffed Thursday after they tried to march toward the parade route, the New York Post reported. The New York Police Department told The Associated Press there were seven arrests near the parade but didn't immediately provide details.

Near the end of the parade route, about 50 protesters walked down the sidewalk carrying signs and chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot."

"We will not tolerate, under any circumstances, any effort to disrupt this parade," police Commissioner William Bratton said earlier Thursday. "This is a national event, a historic event. Anybody who would seek to interrupt it would be callous, indeed, on this very special day."

Protests in New York have remained peaceful since a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who killed the unarmed Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

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IN THE DARK

Power outages from the first major snowstorm of the season could force some residents of the Northeast to celebrate Thanksgiving much like the pilgrims and Native Americans did almost 400 years ago - in the dark.

The outages on Thursday were particularly bad in northern New England, where more than 200,000 customers were without power in New Hampshire and more than 100,000 were without electricity in Maine.

In Vermont, Mike Mrowicki was in the middle of baking squash and making apple-cranberry crisp Wednesday night when the lights flickered off. Mrowicki said they'll improvise on their meal for 10 people.

"We've got a gas stove, and we've got a woodstove we heat with," explained Mrowicki, a state representative from Putney. "We've got plenty of lanterns and candles."

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

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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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Associated Press writer Dave Gram contributed to this report from Montpelier, Vermont.

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