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NEW YORK – When Iris Guidry’s alarm sounded at 5:45 a.m. Thursday, before a glow of sunrise unveiled a blue sky, she turned on her TV to check the weather for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“I was scared we weren’t going to see the balloons,” said Guidry, an actor who moved to Edgewater, N.J., from Michigan two months ago and had never before attended the parade.

“This was on my bucket list,” she said. “When you see it on TV, you’re like, ‘How do they do it?’ And with the balloons and the weather you think, ‘Oh, lord, how are they going to be able to do it?’ ”

But despite fears that unusually high winds would force their grounding, the giant balloons of characters like SpongeBob SquarePants and Snoopy indeed made their annual march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The decision was greeted with relief by the families who lined the streets and endured the bristling cold to take in the spectacle. But the challenges of maneuvering the giant balloons in the high winds were apparent even before the parade began.

While floating in place, the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon was at times wildly flailing in place, crashing into a tree and sending branches and twigs tumbling down. Shortly afterward, a parade official ordered handlers to dramatically lower the balloons.

The decision had been up in the air because of concerns that the winds would exceed the city’s limit for flying balloons, sustained winds of 23 mph and gusts exceeding 34 mph. Those limits were put in place after a Cat in the Hat balloon hit a lamppost in 1997, knocking down part of the pole and injuring four spectators.

Above the parade route Thursday, a few wispy, white clouds scooted above the skyscrapers. But on the streets the winds were milder than the cold. Parade-watchers blew in cupped hands and stomped feet to stay warm. A few shook chemical heat packs as they bunched against the police department’s crowd-control fences.

Upstate, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday joined volunteers who served thousands of Thanksgiving meals in Albany. The governor and his three daughters were at the Empire State Plaza’s Concourse Cafeteria to help at the annual Equinox Thanksgiving Day community dinner. Started in the early 1970s, the event serves more than 10,000 Thanksgiving meals to homebound or homeless people in Albany.

In Washington, President Obama celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving at the White House and called several members of the armed forces to thank them for their service to the country. Many presidents have preferred to spend the holiday at Camp David, the secluded Maryland mountaintop retreat, but the Obamas have more often chosen to have dinner at the Executive Mansion.

Hewing to past practice during his administration, Obama placed calls to several uniformed personnel. The White House said he talked to 10 service members – two each from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

The guest list for the dinner wasn’t made public, so it wasn’t clear who would be joining the president, first lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia for the event.

Elsewhere in the country, gusty winds of 28 mph in Philadelphia 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.

In Detroit, 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.

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.