Thanksgiving parade adds a patriotic flair

Firefighters, veterans and a seafaring Santa draw many downtown

November 18, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

For two hours yesterday on Pratt Street in Baltimore, cheerleaders shook pompoms, marching bands pounded drums, firetrucks whirred their sirens, baton twirlers twirled their batons, beauty pageant winners waved, the Oriole Bird chanted "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" and more marching bands blared their trumpets.

The cacophony was part of Baltimore's annual Thanksgiving parade, which brought thousands of spectators downtown to display their patriotism and entertain young children.

Lilliann Jones was swaying and grooving to the Frederick Douglass High School marching band just east of Harborplace on Pratt Street.

Jones, 44, said she always enjoys a good parade, but yesterday's had special meaning and was helping her let off steam.

She works in downtown Baltimore for the U.S. Postal Service. Last month, two postal workers in Washington died from inhalation anthrax, and several others were sickened by the deadly bacteria.

"We work under a lot of pressure," Jones said. "It's nice that we can come together and be united, enjoy America as it is, and not let any of this other stuff get in the way, put a damper on the holidays."

Jones was not alone in her comments; many at the parade said they were trying to show their support for the country as U.S. forces attack Afghanistan and search for suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

They clapped loudly for veterans carrying American flags and Baltimore firefighters driving down the parade route on Pratt Street in fire engines.

Adele Levine, 31, of Charles Village was watching the parade near Eutaw Street with her 3-month-old dog, Howie.

She said she applauded only once during the parade, and that was for the firefighters -- in remembrance of those firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attacks Sept. 11.

"It was nice to see the firemen go by," she said. "They looked really touched."

Megan O'Brien, 31, was waving at a band with her 1-year-old twins, Riley and Cara. This was her first Thanksgiving parade.

It seemed like an easy way to occupy her children, who spent much of the day on her shoulders.

"There's lots of noise and things to look at," O'Brien said.

Nearly all said they enjoyed the parade.

But Ida Manly, a 56-year-old grandmother from Baltimore, said she was not impressed.

She has seen nearly every Thanksgiving parade in Baltimore during the past 20 years, she said.

This one, she said, had too many marching bands, and there was too much space between the participants, which allowed children to get restless.

But Manly said, "It's free and you can't complain about that."

About 1 p.m., the parade ended. John Randall, 50, was holding his grandson Adrian aloft on his arms as Santa Claus rode by on a boat -- the parade's final float.

"Santa, I've been a good boy," said Adrian, waving.

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