Thousands of people flocked to the fair grounds race course Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. It's a time-honored New Orleans tradition that typically signifies the beginning of the racing season, but this year was a little different.

The fair grounds race course opened it's doors a few weeks ago, for a number of reasons, one of them was to introduce the public to their new slot machines. Despite the early opening, a record crowd still turned out to usher in the holiday.

Today was all about family at the fair grounds. New Orleans resident Hyman Bartolo explains, "We've got 18 of us here, all family members are here, it's a good time."

With drinks in hand and plenty of food to chose from, people from around the city gathered to watch the races and enjoy each other's company. Kate Mcnee says, "Its New Orleans, it's a New Orleans tradition. I've lived here for 20 years and its just one of the things that I love about New Orleans. I see a lot of people from my neighborhood, Bywater, Uptowners, Downtowners, you name it they're all here today, its great."

Austin Miller is the president of the fair grounds race course. He says despite an early opening this year, he's confident the newly purchased slot machines actually drew more bettors out today.

"It's a beautiful new building, with over six hundred machines in it so now when people come out, in addition to the dining options they've got out here, obviously, they've got racing, you can play slots" Miller says.

Miller adds, he's pleased with today's turnout despite the shaky economy....as he says, this is one tradition New Orleanians don't want to give up. "Theres a lot of talk in the economy but if you take a day like Thanksgiving and then we've been at it for 137 years, it would take a pretty big disaster for people not to be able to come out and enjoy a day with their families at the fairgrounds on Thanksgiving" Miller comments.

This year the fair grounds did something rather unique when it came time to sell tables for the Thanksgiving dinner. They advertised the tables on EBay....and within 30 minutes every single one of the tables sold out. Austin Miller says that just goes to show how important this tradition is for people in this area on Thanksgiving.