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Detroit — A parade that takes all year to plan, book, and tweak takes just three words to end: “Ho, ho, ho.”

If Santa’s red suit and season’s greetings weren’t enough signal that the parade was at an end, the large trucks behind it, and the hugging and departing done by anyone whose path Santa had crossed provided surer clues. 

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In the minutes to come, streetlights would be re-hanged and Detroit’s main thoroughfare would be a rare sight: a main road without a hint of traffic.

As the parade wound down, Karyn MacDonald, 50, of Grosse Pointe, enjoyed a private smoke break, far back from the crowd.

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Santa's float glides into the America’s Thanksgiving Parade. The Detroit News

The parade, she said, is a “Detroit tradition” she’s taken part in since childhood. Today, she traveled with a small group of family members ranging “from 5 to 50.”

As Christmas music filled the air, MacDonald summed up what she hopes the youngest members of her family will take from the experience: “Community.”

“We need each other now, more than ever,” MacDonald said. “We all need to love one another, and build each other up.”

You can’t always get what you want — at least not when you want it

When Soaring Eagle Casino’s giant brown balloon eagle passed the crowd at Woodward and West Warren, chants of “spin it, spin it” came from little and big kids both.

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When Soaring Eagle Casino’s giant balloon eagle passed the crowd, chants of “spin it, spin it” came from little and big kids both. The Detroit News

The humans pulling the brown balloon eagle, themselves dressed as brown eagles, offered polite waves in return. But no spinning.

That would come several blocks south, when the eagle-dressed humans scrambled to make the large balloon spin not just once, but twice, for the crowd at Woodward and Garfield.

Not satisfied, the crowd, minutes later, urged on a group carrying an American flag: “spin it! Spin it!”

Attendees are back in the saddle

Horse voices neighed at the corner of John R. and Hendrie, just south of Interstate 94, an hour before America’s Thanksgiving Parade stepped off from nearby Woodward Avenue.

The almost-dozen horses, of the Chupacabra Horse Club and the Genesee County 4-H, normally have about 60 acres of space to play on. For now, one corner would have to do.

Samantha Moody, 43, of Mt. Morris, head of the group, said the club aims, in its fifth year at the parade, to “bring awareness to horseback riding, which is kind of a dying sport.” The national television platform blasts that message out to millions. But its primary audience is the many children lined up along the parade route.

“We’ve had kids cry when they see the horses,” Moody said. “We want people to understand that this is something they can do. We want to share some of our luck and our good fortune. Having horses in your life is a pretty big gift.”

The horses, and a goat companion, will be led by kids as young as eight, supervised by their parents.

The children’s involvement with the horses goes beyond riding. They feed and clean the horses too.

As the horses waited to trot, they chewed on the grass field. 

Ava Thorsby, 11, of Flushing, has been riding for two years. She’d tried dance but lost interest. She started riding horses and never looked back. The habit has brought her calm.

“If you have a test, and you have to get a bunch of stuff done, (riding horses) just kinda takes the stress away from it,” Thorsby said.

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