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Thanksgiving parade launches holiday season in Detroit

Paradegoers on Thursday launched a celebration of the holiday season with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.

Thousands lined Woodward as floats, balloons, marching bands, dance teams and more moved nearly three miles down the route.

Laurel Lautensack and her daughter, Mina, came up from Columbus to watch the festivities, even though the parade is broadcast in more than 185 television markets across the country, organizers said. For many, it was worth it to trip to it in person.

Avid Buffalo Bills football fans, the family was in the city for the second time in five days to watch their team play at Ford Field. But the chance to see the parade was something they couldn't pass up, Laurel Lautensack said. Speaking before the parade stepped off, the mom and daughter said they were looking forward to seeing the floats.

"It's supposed to be great," Laurel Lautensack said. "We figured it would be worth it to check it out while we're already here.

Kathy Duncan, a friend of the Lautensacks' from Fremont, Ohio, agreed.

"I've heard if you can't do Macy's, Detroit is the place to be," Duncan said, referring to the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Others traveled into the city from around Metro Detroit. Kristan Davis and her family, including her husband, Wycell, and her daughter, Brooklyn, left their house in Farmington Hills around 6 a.m. to get a prime viewing spot for the parade.

Kristan and Wycell wanted to see the parade in person after years away, they said. It is their daughter's first time visiting in person.

"It's great, just being part of the festivities," Kristan Davis said. "I'm looking forward to the new floats and being part of this. It's a great day for a parade."

America's Thanksgiving Parade is the second largest Thanksgiving parade in the country. It featured more than two dozen floats, organizers said, as well as nearly 200 "distinguished clowns," five giant balloons and eight marching bands.

In the parade, Jalen Rose and the Rev. Wendell Anthony served as the grand marshals. Rose, a Detroit native and a former member of the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" basketball team, works as an ESPN analyst and is a philanthropist. Anthony is president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the largest chapter in the country, and serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors. He has been pastor of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit for nearly 40 years.

Others in the parade included skateboarder Tony Hawk, Olympians Nick Baumgartner and Megan Keller, and Ava Swiss, an Oxford High School alumna who was a finalist on America's Got Talent's 17th season.

Santa Claus also made an appearance. He rode in the parade on a large float with reindeer. The final participant in the parade, Santa was given the key to the city of Detroit at the end of the route.

"It was very good to see him but I think he's got to get back to work now," Kyla Morris, 6, of St. Clair Shores said after seeing Santa. "He's only got a few weeks until Christmas and I bet he has a lot to get done before then."

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