Detroit ushered in the holiday season with its signature Thanksgiving Day parade, which came complete with an army of clowns, floats and oversized papier-mFachDe heads.
Known as "America's Thanksgiving Parade," it boasts of being one of the oldest and most celebrated in the country and second in size only to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
John and Matt Fisher don't know any other way to celebrate the holiday.
The father and son from Hamtramck, Mich., have been attending Detroit's Thanksgiving parade their entire lives -- John, 53, since he was 4, and 28-year-old Matt since he was 2.
They had their RV set up a day ahead of time and by Thursday morning they had a prime spot for parade watching -- right smack-dab on Woodward Avenue downtown.
And they had it all: coffee, hot cocoa, soup and chili dogs -- items designed to keep them warm on a dark, drizzly morning with temperatures in the upper 30s/lower 40s.
"It's always been this way," said Matt Fisher, a window cleaner. "You have to be at the parade."
John Fisher, who runs a warehouse, said his favorite moment each year is seeing St. Nick, whose float traditionally brings up the rear.
"Got to see Santa," he said, smiling. "If we don't see Santa, we're not sure he's gonna bring presents."
A block down Woodward, the Wolschleger family of South Lyon, Mich., was providing someone with his very first Thanksgiving parade experience.
They brought their daughter's boyfriend, a foreign exchange student, along with them.
For Jonah Boyd, 16, of Hamburg, Germany, it was well worth it.
"This is great," said Boyd, who didn't know much about the uniquely American holiday before arriving here.
"All I knew was that people ate turkey," he said.
Melissa Wolschleger, 41, said she was happy to expose Boyd to the holiday as much as she was continuing it with her own family, including her husband and three children.
They had chairs lining the parade route, where ahead of time they watched thousands of runners take part in the annual Turkey Trot race.
Many participants wore the official race shirt, but others wore more interesting getups.
One person ran in a Santa suit, complete with a sack for toys. An elf was spotted as well. Other runners dressed as Iron Man and Captain America.
Perhaps the most appropriate attire belonged to the two Turkey Trotters wearing turkey hats.
As for the parade itself, it was as big as ever with 29 floats, nearly 1,000 clowns, 13 bands, nine balloons and 125 oversized papier-mache heads, which represented notable Detroit and Michigan personalities, such as former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.
The clowns and others in the parade hurled beads -- 300,000 in all -- as they marched and waved.
Celebrities on hand included Olympians Meryl Davis, Charlie White and Peter Vanderkaay; and hip-hop artist Biz Markie, who treated parade-goers to a "beat-boxing" lesson and sang an impromptu version of his hit, "Just a Friend."
"I love it here," he said. "Last parade I was in was in New York in the early `90s."
The Olympians rode on the "Let Freedom Ring" float, which featured an oversized eagle and a Statue of Liberty replica.
The biggest celeb of all, of course, was Santa himself, who was awarded a key to the city by Mayor Dave Bing.
The jolly old man held the key aloft and bellowed: "Let me be the first to wish all the boys and girls and all the moms and dads a Merry Christmas!"