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A Day to Give Thanks and Count Blessings

Celebration: Americans observe holiday by volunteering at missions, watching the Macy's parade or simply lounging, and gorging, at home.

November 27, 1998| From Associated Press

Ray Goff got an earful along with a mouthful when he showed up Thursday for a turkey dinner for the homeless at Atlanta Union Mission.

A homeless man challenged the former University of Georgia head football coach about why he didn't make better use of Terrell Davis, a star running back for the Denver Broncos after an unremarkable Georgia career.

"I did get a laugh out of that," Goff said.

There were plenty of belly laughs--and later, probably bellyaches--at dinner tables across the country on Thanksgiving Day, as families sat down to stuff themselves with big birds, mushy veggies and belt-tightening sweets.

President Clinton took to the golf course, spending a quiet Thanksgiving with family and friends before enjoying a holiday dinner. Clinton played 18 holes of golf at the Maple Run golf course, located just minutes from Camp David.

He spent the holiday with his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea, at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. "Happy bird day," Clinton called out to reporters in the middle of about four hours of golf with Hollywood producer and presidential confidant Harry Thomason, Hugh and Tony Rodham, the first lady's brothers, and Dick Kelly, Clinton's stepfather.

For much of the nation, the morning was a chance to lounge around, shop (for larger clothing), or--weather permitting--watch a parade.

A year after gusting winds thrashed the trademark giant helium balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, rain and wind conspired to keep the crowd size down and several of the giant balloons on the ground.

Still, thousands of people braved heavy downpours to score the choicest viewing spots along the 2 1/2-mile route.

"Sure it's raining, but we've watched this on TV for so many years that we had to come," said Beverly Givens, 39, of Oak Grove, Ill., who was watching with her husband and two children. "The rain won't stop us."

The weather was better in downtown Detroit, where sunny skies and temperatures pushing the upper 40s greeted tens of thousands of parade-watchers.

But it wasn't the marching bands, floats and balloon characters that captured one young spectator's attention.

"Big!" exclaimed 2-year-old Joey Dungan, riding on his father's shoulders and pointing to a cherry picker holding a television cameraman above the parade route.

"Big" might also be a way to describe the crowd of 1,300 that showed up for a Thanksgiving dinner for the poor and homeless at the Central YMCA in Wichita, Kan. By 1 p.m., the last of the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie had been eaten, and horrified volunteers realized a line of people was still outside.

"I'm so sorry," was all YMCA spokeswoman Terri Truesdell could say to those waiting--among them, a young mother with a little boy holding her hand; two elderly ladies who said they had no family and no one else with whom to celebrate; and a family of six wearing ill-fitting clothes.

"We could have cooked more, but we had no idea this many people would show up. In the past, we had too much leftover food," Truesdell said. Organizers believed the high turnout was caused more by balmy weather than an increase in hardship in the community.

The clear skies and temperatures in the 40s were perfect for the more than 4,500 runners who lined up for the 103rd Turkey Trot in Buffalo, N.Y., the nation's oldest footrace.

In historic Plymouth, Mass., where last year's Thanksgiving was marked by the arrest of two dozen demonstrators who believe the holiday glorifies the slaughter of American Indians, police were notably absent from Thursday's protest.

Of course, it wasn't so quiet at the Atlanta Union Mission, where more than 1,000 homeless and poor people ate turkey dinners and hundreds began the day with ham-and-sausage breakfasts.

"Hearing the stories, hearing how people wind up here, will break your heart," said Goff, the former Georgia football coach. "I think sometimes we get so caught up in going and going and doing and doing in our everyday lives, we don't stop and realize how some people are living."

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