Performers dressed as elves dance in front of Radio City Music Hall during the 86th Macy's Thanksgiving day parade in New York on Thursday.

New York - Americans celebrated Thanksgiving by cheering parades and cooking sumptuous feasts, some sharing the bounty at East Coast emergency shelters to say thanks for what they still had after superstorm Sandy caused widespread damage throughout the region.

“We're trying to do it Pilgrim style,” said Louis DeCarolis, 51, roasting a turkey in a fire pit marked by an American flag and dug into the front yard of his son's home in Rockaway Beach, Queens, that lost power when it was flooded by the deadly storm.

Thousands of area residents are coping with the loss of homes, businesses and loved ones on Thanksgiving. At an emergency shelter at a church in another coastal community, Belle Harbour, Queens, red cloths graced tables groaning with trays of stuffing and pumpkin pies for people displaced by the historic storm that destroyed homes and businesses in New York and New Jersey.

Earlier in the day, the holiday kicked off with cheering crowds lining New York City streets for the 86th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the largest public event so far in a city still recovering from the storm.

Under warm and clear skies, children climbed atop police vans and on their parents’ shoulders to get a better view of an enormous inflatable Hello Kitty prowling between skyscrapers along with 15 other gigantic balloons, including a Kermit the Frog balloon and a huge Charlie Brown.

The parade, which typically draws 3.5 million spectators and 50-million television viewers, also featured 28 floats, 11 marching bands, thousands of cheerleaders and dancers and Santa Claus. Celebrity performers included Whoopi Goldberg, Carly Rae Jepsen and the Muppets.

Macy's provided seats for 5 000 people affected by Sandy, which inundated lower Manhattan with seawater, damaged shorelines and destroyed homes in New Jersey and New York. The October 29 storm killed 132 people in the United States and Canada.

Basting his turkey in the fire pit a block from the beach, DeCarolis said he planned to deliver it to a homebound neighbour and her disabled child who are still without power.

“I'd rather give it to them. We have a lot to be thankful for - we didn't lose any loved ones,” said DeCarolis, a building cleaner now homeless after his basement apartment was destroyed by the historic storm surge.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city, in partnership with local community organisations and businesses, was providing 26 500 Thanksgiving meals for people hardest hit by the storm. - Reuters