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Philadelphians brave bitter cold to watch Thanksgiving Day parade

The parade featured Gritty, Miss America, Mickey Mouse, and, of course, Santa Claus.

Spectators bundle up to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in Center City Philadelphia on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. Temperatures were forecast to reach only into the 20s.
Spectators bundle up to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in Center City Philadelphia on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. Temperatures were forecast to reach only into the 20s.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The nation's oldest Thanksgiving Day parade appears to have experienced one of its coldest.

Thousands of Philadelphians bundled up Thursday morning to see the 99th annual parade. The temperature was 24 degrees when the 6ABC Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade stepped off at 8:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service said the city had a high of 34 — but that was shortly after midnight Wednesday, no help to parade stalwarts who shivered along the Parkway. According to meteorologist Sarah Johnson, 34 degrees would be the lowest high temperature on Thanksgiving Day since 1996, when it was 30 degrees.

The bitter cold didn't deter attendees like Rose Pisacano, 22, who wrapped herself in a blanket while she watched the parade on the Parkway. She just got back from Puerto Rico, where she said it was 90 degrees.

>> MORE PHOTOS: Philadelphia's 2018 Thanksgiving Day Parade

"I'm not prepared for this," she said. "This is too much."

She was thankful, though, for her smooth flight to Philadelphia during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. The parade is a Thanksgiving tradition for her family from Northeast Philadelphia.

"I'm thankful they still have the parade, that it still goes on," said her father, Joseph, 55. "It's literally the one thing that we do every year."

Plenty of others braved the frigid temperatures to catch a glimpse of the Flyers' new rock-star mascot Gritty, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, American Idol's Justin Guarini, Michael Woodard and Catie Turner, along with Darth Vader, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and, of course, Santa Claus.

The parade route started at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and headed east to 16th Street, before turning left up the Parkway. It ended in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for live performances.

The big balloons — including the Grinch, Waldo, and the Super Robot Voltron — ran a shorter route due to wind, said John Morris, the parade's executive producer for 6ABC. Wind gusts were expected to reach 26 mph, the Weather Service said.

Event organizers had to make other special preparations to account for the deep freeze, including warming tents for attendees and thousands of hand warmers for volunteers, Morris said. Dunkin' Donuts gave out free hats and coffee.

Attendees came prepared, too. Some kept warm by huddling in their own tents. Others drank booze. One child was wrapped in shiny silver thermal energy blankets like those handed out at the finish line of last weekend's marathon.

Sandra Mann, 58, brought "everything," including hand warmers, foot warmers, and a Dallas Cowboys wool hat. The Allentown resident acknowledged the head garment was an unpopular decision. "I've gotten some looks," she said.

She sat in the bleachers in front of the Art Museum with her 32-year-old daughter Kaylee, who won tickets for the seats through a contest on Facebook, and her 10-year-old granddaughter, Alexia. Mann gave a surprising answer when asked about the bitter weather.

"It's actually kind of warm," she said. "The sun is keeping us warm."