Thanksgiving Parade Chicago 2012: Who, What, When, and Where.

Thanksgiving Parade Chicago 2012: Who, What, When, and Where.
Fred Flinstone flies down State St. with the greatest of ease at last year's Thanksgiving Parade. Photo credit: Chicago Festivals.

CHICAGO, Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Seventy-nine and counting…the 79th Annual McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade is coming to town this Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 22.  The highly-anticipated event kicks off the holiday season with Santa Claus, sky-high balloons, dazzling equestrian units, some of the nation’s top marching bands, talented dance troupes and a variety of cultural acts.  The parade will step off at 8 a.m. and travel north on State Street from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. It is expected to last approximately 3 hours.

Originally called the Christmas Caravan, the first parade was launched in 1934 to help lift the spirits of residents suffering through the Great Depression.  Since then, the routes, parade name and dates have changed, but the tradition has remained strong. From 1935 to 1983 the parade was called the State Street Christmas Parade.  Initially, the parade was held the first week of December, later it was moved up to the Sunday after Thanksgiving and finally to Thanksgiving Day.

In 1984 the parade got its first sponsor, McDonald’s.  Through the years there have been a variety of sponsors including: Brach’s Candies, Marshall Field’s & Co., and Target.  The giant helium balloons that are so popular today were late comers to the parade with the first of the characters,  Kermit the Frog and Billy Blazes, thrilling the crowds in 1998.

This year’s parade will showcase over 100 parade units, including the high-energy Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® presents Dragons, The Joffrey Ballet, marching bands, equestrian groups, plus twelve giant helium balloons including fan favorites Mr. Potato Head, Woody Woodpecker, Curious George, Garfield and Odie, and the premiere of new Tom and Jerry balloons.

Marching bands in this year’s parade come from all over the country, including Lowndes High School (Georgia), Citrus High School (Florida) and Boardman High School (Ohio). This also includes Chicagoland’s best high school bands, featuring performances from Waukegan High School, Proviso East High School, Marist High School and many others.

And what’s a parade without horses?  Marching the route this year, among many others, will be the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, Ray of Hope Riders and Bertrand’s Miniature Horses.

Chicago native and WWE® Superstar CM Punk® returns this year as the Official Grand Marshal. The Straightedge Superstar has taken his thrill for living the clean life outside of the ring.  He has tossed the first pitch at the games of his beloved Chicago Cubs and was the Grand Marshal of the 2008 McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade. CM Punk is living out his dream as one of the longest reigning WWE Champions of all time.

Another honored guest that will ride down the parade route on Thanksgiving morning is Chicago native, Jaslene Gonzalez. Gonzalez the winner of America’s Next Top Model.

If you can’t come to State Street this year, you can see the 79th McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade on WGN-9 Chicago and WGN America. For more information, please visit

VIP Seating at the Parade.

For $50 per person, you can get VIP treatment. Go to the Chicago Festivals Website for more information and to purchase a parade sponsorship.

Post Parade.

Chicago’s Christkindlmarket will be open from 11 a.m. to 4p.m. for shopping, German Food and Beverages and an opportunity to Meet & Greet the Christkind. Right after the parade, head on over to Daley Plaza to meet the Christkind, take pictures with her, and see what this year’s market has to offer.  Dearborn between Randolph and Washington.

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