NEW YORK -- Giant balloons, floats, marching bands and clowns with confetti brought smiles to hundreds of thousands of revelers eager to catch a glimpse of a parade as steeped in Thanksgiving Day tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie.
Crowds six to seven people deep lined the streets of Manhattan on Thursday for the 83rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as merrymakers gathered nationwide for massive parades in cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia.
Soldiers in war zones received phone calls of appreciation from President Barack Obama, while astronauts hovering above the Earth's surface feasted on turkey smuggled aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.
In New York City, Miss America Katie Stam waved to crowds from a Statue of Liberty float she shared with Meb Keflezighi, the first American in 11 years to win the New York City Marathon.
Shailesh Dighe and his family came to the fabled parade to snap pictures of celebrities including rapper Jay Sean and singer-actress Keke Palmer. Despite the crowds, Dighe said the parade is ''totally worth it.''
''When you watch it on TV, you don't get that feeling,'' said Dighe, who splits his time between Manhattan and Princeton, N.J.
For the first time, the parade route bypassed Broadway, which cuts a diagonal slice through Manhattan, as it made its way south from the Upper West Side to the finish at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square.
The new route traverses the grid of the city's streets and avenues, includes turns around five corners, and is slightly longer than in previous years -- 2.65 miles compared with 2.5 miles.
Johanna Castillo, 38, of Guttenberg, N.J., said the new route seemed to better accommodate the crowds.
''I was very blessed to get here at the time I did and find a spot'' a half-hour before parade time, said Castillo, who arrived with her two children.
Maryann Alonzo, 48, of Queens, N.Y., has been coming to the parade since she was a baby. She showed up Thursday with her daughter and friends to cheer on her father, who's been performing in the parade for 25 years as a clown.
''This is our Thanksgiving,'' Alonzo said. ''More than the food.''
Celebrity entertainment included Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli, comedian Jimmy Fallon, former ''American Idol'' star Katharine McPhee and singers Gloria Gaynor and Carly Simon.
Elsewhere, tens of thousands gathered in the streets of downtown Detroit for the 83rd annual America's Thanksgiving Parade. The country's longest-run Thanksgiving Day parade was held in Philadelphia for its 90th year.
In Detroit, where the September unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, parade organizers set up three locations where revelers could drop off donations of canned food for the area food bank.