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Philly's Thanksgiving Day parade proved a respite from a rough year

ON THURSDAY morning, bands, floats and balloons bobbed through downtown Philadelphia, extending a 97-year tradition - the Thanksgiving Day parade, America's oldest.

ON THURSDAY morning, bands, floats and balloons bobbed through downtown Philadelphia, extending a 97-year tradition - the Thanksgiving Day parade, America's oldest.

And boy, did the city - and, arguably, the country - need a parade.

Along the 1.4-mile route, the festivities seemed an effective salve to the raw feelings lingering from an extraordinarily divisive presidential campaign that exposed radical differences over how Americans think about race, gender and religion.

Among the revelers who in spots lined JFK Boulevard three-deep were Maxine Fredric and her 12-year-old niece, Faith Reyes, who took a train in from Norristown.

Despite the contentious presidential election and other stresses of 2016, Fredric, a portfolio administrator, declared it a good year.

"I'm waking up every day," she said as a passing band played "Yankee Doodle Dandy." "I appreciate the little things."

Also watching were Alice Dale and her 20-year-old daughter, Samantha Dennis, who shared their very different political perspectives.

"I'm thankful for everything that happened," Dale said of the election that is sending developer and reality-TV star Donald Trump to the White House. "I'm very hopeful."

Dennis is not.

"I'd like to gladly disagree," she said. "I don't deal with bigotry well, and I don't deal with stupidity very well."

But they laughed about their diverse views. For the most part, they don't talk politics, said the South Jersey natives, who now live in Wilmington, N.C., and were excited to be in Philadelphia for the holiday.

"I feel like I'm back home," Dennis said.

The parade route began at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and turned onto 16th Street on its way to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Near a stairway leading down to the Broad Street Line, Alton May watched Santa Claus and the end of the parade with his 7-year-old son, Nafis, on his shoulders. It was the West Philadelphian's first trip to the parade in about a decade.

Asked whether he felt thankful this year, he had a mixed response.

"No," he said, "because Trump is in office."

On the other hand, he said, he was able to buy a house this year.

Despite the tumultuous year, many people answered unhesitatingly that they felt the spirit of the holiday. As balloon versions of children's book characters the Grinch and the Very Hungry Caterpillar loomed above, parade-watchers said they were thankful they could spend the holiday with family and friends.

"I'm just thankful for him," Washington resident Sharonda Harper said of husband Erik, as they stood at 17th Street and JFK Boulevard. "We just got married two months ago."

Standing away from the crowd near JFK Plaza, medical student Cara Smith of South Philadelphia cradled her sleeping 4-month-old son, Desmond. Wrapped in blankets and wearing a stocking cap shaped like a cooked turkey, Desmond slept as a brass band performing Christmas music marched past.

"It's been a pretty rough year," Smith said. "My grandmother just passed away, so I'm just happy to be with the family that's here."

Her husband, Shea O'Neill, said he was most thankful for his wife and son. Smith's stepmother, Ann Ricksecker, thought for a moment about what she was thankful for this year.

"We're all unanimous," she finally said, looking at the sleeping infant. "It's all about him."