PHOTOS: Balloons, spirits soar at NYC Thanksgiving parade

 Balloon handlers wait before the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Balloon handlers wait before the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

— The big balloons soared along with the crowd's spirits Thursday as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the streets of New York City.

There'd been some concerns about whether the wind could keep 16 giant balloons grounded, but the cherished tradition prevailed.

"We thought they'd find a way to pull it off," said parade-goer John Mispagel, of San Jose, Calif. "It's really fun seeing so many people having such a great time."

Balloon handlers were keeping a tight grip on their inflated characters and held them fairly close to the ground in tree-lined areas. The wind was around 26 mph.

Mispagel and his wife, Susan, said Sonic the Hedgehog got caught on a tree while rounding a corner near the start of the parade route; handlers used cutters on a rope to free the balloon.

The cheering throngs were bundled against a 30-degree chill, but the sun was shining. Some in the crowd lifted small children onto their shoulders.

An excited 9-year-old Lily Thomolaris, of Pittsburgh, was excited to "see all the balloons." But she especially thought a big turkey was really cool.

Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were unaffected by the weather.

In Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama pardoned two 38-pound turkeys named Popcorn and Caramel, fulfilling the annual presidential tradition.

In a holiday edition of his weekend radio and Internet address, Obama gave thanks for the country's founders, the generations who followed, and members of the military, and their families, for the sacrifices they make.

He expressed gratitude for the freedoms service members defend, including speech, religion and the right to choose America's leaders. And he had kind words for those who work to make America a more compassionate place.

Also Wednesday, two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole.

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Associated Press writers Jake Pearson, Seth Borenstein, Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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