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Thanksgiving holiday ushers in shopping season

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A day to eat, eat and be thankful

In this story:

November 26, 1998
Web posted at: 11:05 p.m. EST (0405 GMT)

(CNN) -- Americans put away millions of golden roasted turkeys and mountains of mashed potatoes Thursday -- storing up energy for Friday's customary start of the holiday shopping season.

If the past is any guide, Friday will be one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Most Americans will have the day off from work, flocking to malls and downtowns to get a jump start on their gift buying.

In Atlanta, thousands turned out Thursday night to watch Santa Claus flip the switch and light a gigantic Christmas tree atop Underground Atlanta, a long-standing Yuletide tradition.

Helping others part of feast

Thanksgiving 1998 was a day for food, football, parades and road races across the country. But it was also a day when many spent time helping others in need.

In Washington, D.C., the Rev. Imogene Stewart and her band of volunteers served dinner to the disadvantaged for the 25th year. In New York, volunteers with God's Love We Deliver (GLWD) delivered meals to 1,400 people with AIDS in two states.

In Wichita, Kansas, about 1,300 people showed up for a Thanksgiving dinner for poor and homeless at the Central YMCA -- so many folks that the last of the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie had been consumed by 1 p.m. with people still waiting in line.

"We could have cooked more, but we had no idea this many people would show up. In the past, we had too much leftover food," said YMCA spokeswoman Terri Truesdell. Organizers believe the shortage was caused more by balmy weather than an increase in hardship in the community.

At Atlanta's Union Mission, more than 1,000 homeless and poor people ate turkey dinners, and hundreds began the day with a ham-and-sausage breakfast.

"I think sometimes we get so caught up in going and going and doing and doing in our everyday lives, we don't stop and realize how some people are living," said former University of Georgia football Coach Ray Goff, who helped serve Thursday's meal.

Macy's parade slightly soggy

Clear skies and temperatures in the 40s were perfect for the more than 4,500 runners who turned out for the 103rd Turkey Trot in Buffalo, New York, the nation's oldest road race.

In New York City, the weather wasn't as cooperative for the 72nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, another widely anticipated holiday tradition. Spectators braved rain and wind, huddling under umbrellas to watch the parade and its trademark giant balloons.

One of the balloons debuting this year, "The Wild Thing," based on a character in a children's book by Maurice Sendak, had to be taken out of the parade after it struck a lamppost and suffered a 10-foot gash.

New safety measures were put in place this year after an incident last year where a balloon toppled a lamppost onto a spectator, seriously injuring her. This year's parade went off without incident.

U.S. forces abroad get traditional meal

President Bill Clinton, his wife and daughter and other relatives spent the holiday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Clinton played a round of golf before Thursday's dinner with his stepfather, brothers-in-law and a longtime friend, Hollywood producer Harry Thomason.

Members of the U.S. military serving overseas were also treated to traditional Thanksgiving dinners, including troops at outposts in Tuzla, Bosnia, and Doha Camp, Kuwait.

While many Americans enjoyed watching two professional football games on TV, another Thanksgiving football tradition was taking place in Easton, Pennsylvania.

For the 95th time, teams from Easton Area High School and Phillipsburg High School, across the Delaware River in New Jersey, met on the gridiron on Thanksgiving.

"It's almost like it's not Thanksgiving in Easton and Phillipsburg unless you go to the game," Phillipsburg Mayor Tom Corcoran told the Express-Times, a local newspaper.

Thanksgiving commemorates a feast first celebrated by Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1621. The religious refugees had left England the year before and were giving thanks for their first good harvest in the New World.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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