FOR 48 years, Lou Dallago has bundled up with his family and come into Center City for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

Dallago, 78, started taking his kids when they were young, carrying a ladder on the subway so that they could get a good view of the traditional floats, bands and, of course, Santa Claus. But this year, he wasn't so sure he wanted to go.

"I was going to take a break this year, because it was supposed to rain, but we had the little guy," said Dallago, pointing at his 10-year-old grandson. His wife and daughter were also in his group, huddled on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Dallago was glad that he showed up, noting that "just being here" was something for which to be thankful.

Gray skies and even a little snow yesterday couldn't keep loyal fans away from the parade, billed as the nation's oldest.

The Turkey Day romp down JFK Boulevard and up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum is sponsored by the Swedish furniture store Ikea and was broadcast live on 6 ABC.

The extravaganza included 16 floats, 18 marching bands and 14 giant helium balloons. Performers - who mostly hailed from ABC programs and Disney properties - included pop singer Brandy, fresh off a stint on "Dancing With the Stars," Justin Guarini of "American Idol," and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

And despite worrisome predictions, rain didn't ruin the parade. Instead, a dusting of prewinter snow started gently falling midmorning, prompting children to peer up to the heavens and hold out their tongues to catch a flake.

"We thought it was going to rain," said Cheryl Atkinson, 34, of Brookhaven, Delaware County, who was with a family group that included her two kids, 9 and 5. "When it started to snow, it was a nice surprise, gets you in the Christmas spirit."

Some spectators were better prepared for inclement weather than others. Diane Byrne and her family have been bringing tents to a spot near 17th and the Parkway for more than 10 years.

Byrne, of Glen Mills, and her friend Marybeth Daley, 34, of Drexel Hill, sat inside a tent on folding chairs while her two teenage daughters and their friends huddled in sleeping bags inside a smaller tent.

"The celebrities all say hi to us because they notice us," Byrne said. As if on cue, Brandy sailed by on a float and pointed and waved.

Not everyone in Byrne's family was in the tents, though. Byrne's husband, Raymond, 54, sat in a chair outside. Glancing at his wife and her friend, he said, "They talk too much."

Philly's colorful Thanksgiving march dates to 1920, when it was started by the long-gone Gimbels department store. After Gimbels closed, the parade was sponsored by Boscov's until the company filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Ikea took over sponsorship of the parade that year.

Although many of the attendees had been going to the parade for years, others said that they were starting a new tradition.

"This is our second time," said Caren Wilson, 44, who was there with her 10-year-old son, her sister and nieces. "We did all of our cooking and stuff, got up at 6 this morning and came from Newark, Delaware. It's good family fun."