Thanksgiving Parades: An American Tradition
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without parades! Since the early 20th century, many Americans wake up on Thanksgiving morning to the mouthwatering aromas of roasting turkey. Familiar sounds of marching bands float from the television, and your attention shifts to the procession of larger-than-life balloons floating above streets lined with a crowd of spectators, colorful displays, clowns, and a variety of other performers.
Humble Beginnings in the Roaring ’20s
Thanksgiving Day Parades in the United States have a long and proud history dating back to 1920. This tradition began when the Philadelphia based Gimble Brothers Department Store, or Gimbels, sponsored the first official Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade served to kick off the holiday season and remind Philadelphians that Gimbels had their holiday needs covered.
This parade is still recognized as the oldest and one of the largest in the country, however, the original name of Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade has changed several times over since the company was taken over and is known today as the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A Macy’s Thanksgiving Makeover
The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is hands down the largest and most famous parade on Turkey Day. Its grand debut in 1924 showcased the opening of the world’s largest store, boasting 1 million square feet of retail space at the start of the holiday shopping season.
The expansion of this Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square covers an entire city block spanning from Broadway to 7th Avenue along 34th Street!
America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit
Another legendary retailer, J.L. Hudson’s, also debuted a holiday parade in downtown Detroit in 1924 – the same year as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. America’s Thanksgiving Parade is the official start of holiday season in the Motor City with its annual two-mile route down historic Woodward Avenue.
Although Hudson’s stopped sponsoring the parade in 1979, this event lives on through area corporations and the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation. Their non-profit, The Parade Company, organizes the event each year with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
In the wake of these parade pioneers, other popular Thanksgiving Day Parades have sprung up over the decades. We’ve included a few of these honorable mentions below:
- Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s – includes the larger-than-life Macy’s holiday balloons, plus floats featuring characters from Despicable Me, Shrek, and Madagascar
- H-E-B Holiday Parade – 60 years of Houston tradition
- Winternational Thanksgiving Parade – a staple of Miami for over 40 years
- Mother Goose Parade – this unique parade promotes higher education and community development in San Diego
So, take some time this year to enjoy a Thanksgiving tradition as synonymous as the turkey himself. Thanksgiving Day parades bring some cheer, put the fun in the festivities, and kick off the holiday season in style.
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