Amid spectacular weather conditions, America's oldest Thanksgiving Day parade went off without a hitch in Philadelphia on Thursday morning, featuring the usual complement of bands and balloons, as well as a marriage proposal from one spectator on bended knee.
Missing from the 6ABC Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, fortunately, were security threats.
Following the recent Islamic State attacks in Paris, New York City had substantial security along the route of its nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In Philadelphia, police officers stood every few yards along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, though their presence wasn't anything like the impenetrable show of force there for Pope Francis' visit in September.
Families walked freely along the parade route, nearly bumping shoulders with those keeping a firm grip on the balloons that bobbed overhead. To shouts from onlookers to "Spin it!," the handlers ran the massive inflatables in circles.
There were performances by big-name stars, including singer Dionne Warwick, smile-provoking balloons (even if the Grinch was a bit grouchy), and the last Turkey Day parade appearance as mayor by Michael Nutter.
Among the thousands that lined the parkway were three generations of the Cooper family.
The youngest were sleepy, lying down in wagons the family brought from their home in Runnemede. The middle generation, including Beth Cooper, remembered years of parade-going, regardless of the weather.
"My dad," she said. "It didn't matter if it was raining or snowing. You just had to bundle up."
Sitting nearby, her father, Paul, recalled Thanksgiving parades 50 years ago when he used peach crates as seats, and went to Horn & Hardart on Broad Street to share hot chocolate with his father.
"The tradition started with me and my father," he said.
At 96 years old, Philadelphia's parade is a symbol of tradition - while acknowledging the present. When the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer balloon made its way from JFK Boulevard onto 16th Street en route to the parkway, a group of Montgomery County girls, ages 7 to 10, sang out the famous Christmas song in his honor, only to interrupt it suddenly to pay homage to a currently trending personality.
"Darth Vader!" they shouted as the Star Wars villain marched past.
Danie Jackson, 32, of Media, has been coming to the parade since childhood and this year came with her father, Gerry, and cousin Laurie Jacobs. Her wife, Marissa Colston, was with them, too, but that took some convincing. Colston was tired and was looking forward to spending the day off at home. Her wife's enthusiasm was infectious, though, Colston said.
"Seeing someone get excited about it helps," Colston said, then gestured to the musical instrument in Jackson's right hand. "She bought a tambourine. She's ready to go."
To perennial attendee John Dooley, this year's parade certainly will be one the Fishtown resident will never forget. He and his Sister Jackie Dooley Gerner had been planning for a month a way to incorporate the parade into his marriage proposal to girlfriend, Amy MacCord, of Huntingdon Valley. Dooley, 32, and MacCord, 25, started dating six years ago on Thanksgiving.
Dooley Gerner emailed the parade organizers and arranged to have a banner that read, "Amy, will you marry me?" carried by the Pennsbury High School marching band. As the band processed down the parkway, the crowds shouted "Where's Amy?" and cheered her name. It got as far as the Franklin Institute before Amy's family pulled her into the street and showed her the banner, which also included a picture of her, Dooley, and his son, John, at the parade last Thanksgiving.
"I'm completely shocked," she said after Dooley got on one knee and she, wiping tears from her face, accepted his proposal with a nod.
Another parade memory was made.
"I've been coming since I was a child," Dooley said. "Now we're handing it along and making it bigger."