Thanksgiving parade ushers in the holidays

PHILADELPHIA - November 24, 2011

It was a fantastic way to kick off the holidays as the 6abc/Dunkin Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade went off without a hitch.

However, there was one snag before the parade started - the Garfield balloon popped early Thursday morning at "Inflation Station" where the balloons were being prepped for the parade.

Organizers weren't sure if it was from over-inflation, a problem with the strings or some other issue.

The handlers assigned to "Garfield" were reassigned, so they could still be part of the festivities.

RELATED: Watch videos from the 6abc/Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade

Once the parade got underway, the weather was wonderful as spectators lined the route six to eight people deep to catch all of the sights and sounds.

For some, the parade is the only way to start the holiday. It's a family tradition.

"My son brings the food, my daughter-in-law cooks and it's just wonderful," said Nancy Stephens of Harleysville, Pa.

When asked if she could imagine starting her Thanksgiving any other way, Stephens pointed to her family and said "No! They wouldn't let me do it any other way!"

The spectators were treated to an awesome arry of giant balloons, fabulous floats and some of the best marching bands in the country.

"It is amazing. We came here four years ago with our oldest son and we're back again," said Charlene Paquin, who came to Philadelphia from Brownsburg, Indiana. "We come every four years. It's wonderful. This is a great town."

As great a spectacle as the parade is, so many people said that it's sharing the spectacle with friends and family that makes it extra-special.

"It's great to have the family together from all over," said Donna Belt of Southampton, Pa. "And it seems like everyone we're sitting with are all part of our family too."

The parade even offered a bit of a mystery - when Santa's sleigh rolled in front of the Art Museum, Santa was nowhere to be found! Instead, an elf occupied his seat next to Mrs. Claus.

Fortunately, St. Nick emerged from a giant Christmas present during the grand finale, to the delight of everyone watching.

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