Every Thanksgiving morning, Chicago’s official holiday season gets a super sized start with the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, bright and early. While your Thanksgiving turkey roasts, from 8am-11am on CW26 Chicago (check your local listings) it’s an opportunity, besides dinner and football, to share a holiday tradition with all the generations gathered together to witness Chicago area marching bands, floats, giant balloons, equestrian acts, performances and more.
“A Tradition 88 years in the Making”
As told by Wikipedia sources, in 1934, the United States had been in the Great Depression for six years, and Chicago’s leaders needed to boost the economy as well as public spirit. Enter Walter Gregory, President of Chicago’s State Street Council, who proposed a Christmas parade to Mayor Edward Kelly.
The ‘Christmas Caravan,’ Chicago’s first Thanksgiving Day Parade, marched down State Street on December 7, 1934. Gregory and a costumed Santa Claus led the caravan, which was filled with toys and various merchandise from State Street businesses. As hoped, the parade contributed to desirable growth in the local economy and the city’s largest holiday buying period since 1927.
The parade continued through World War II and the rise of the Baby Boomer era in post-war America.
in 1968, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, under the leadership of Mayor Richard J. Daley, took over producing the holiday parade when the State Street Council determined that it could no longer afford it. In 1969, an estimated 1.5 million people lined State Street, a record at the time.
Corporate sponsorships, surprisingly enough, didn’t start until 1984, when Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities began a five-year sponsorship, followed by Brach’s, Marshall Field’s, and Target, among others.
One thing remaining constant is the presence of the parade mascot, Teddy Turkey. “Teddy, according to Wikipedia sources, is also is known to make appearances throughout the city, helping to spread the holiday spirit – year round – to everyone he meets.” And, he has his own Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts!
Thursday, November 24: ‘Where Grateful Hearts Gather’
In 2022, Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade is themed ‘Where Grateful Hearts Gather.’ The parade steps off at 8am on Thursday, November 24, on State Street (that great street!) from Ida B. Wells Drive (formerly Congress) north to Randolph. If you’re roasting the turkey the morning of November 24, you can watch the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade live on CW26 from 8AM – 11AM.
As Choose Chicago says, “Gaze upward as the skyline fills with giant helium balloons, led by Teddy the Turkey, the parade’s official mascot. You’ll see a cast of familiar and much-loved faces, from Garfield the Cat outfitted as a pilgrim to Bullwinkle J. Moose looking sharp in his suit.
Wave at the entertainers as the decorative floats cruise by. And don’t miss fan favorite Santa Claus as he ushers in the holidays.”
Topping it all off are incredible performances throughout the day within the main stage area between Washington and Randolph Streets. Among those performing will be the Marist High School marching band, Jesse White Tumbling Team and dance group Renacer Boliviano.
Local Chicago-area marching bands include: Bishop Noll (IN) Institute; Bloom Township High School; Kankakee High School; Lake Zurich High School; Marist High School; Merrillville (IN) High School; Southland College Prep Charter High School; and Thornwood High School. Other local parade entries feature: American Sidesaddle Association, Escaramuza las Monarcas, Herder Holiday Horses, SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, the 501st Legion Midwest Garrison; Aztec Dance-Xochitl-Quetzal; Bloom Township High School Choir; Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team; Chicago Spirit Brigade; Cirque Experience; Crystal Lake Strikers Drumline; and the Korean Performing Arts Institute of Chicago.
For more information on Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, check out Block Club Chicago’s feature here.
Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago