Thanksgiving Day Parade 2013: A Preview of Chicago's Parade

Thanksgiving Day Parade 2013: A Preview of Chicago's Parade
Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade turns 80 this year

Here’s your preview of Chicago’s 80th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year’s full-scale extravaganza will showcase a dozen giant character balloons, marching bands, festive floats, cultural groups, equestrian groups, theatrical performances, celebrity guests and more. The parade will step off on Thursday, November 28 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which celebrates it’s 80th anniversary this year, started out small back in 1934 when Walter Gregory, president of the State Street Council, created a State Street “Christmas Caravan” in order to stimulate economic growth and spread cheer to Chicagoans during the Depression era.

Originally held on December 7th, the Christmas Caravan consisted of toys and merchandise from stores all along State Street. The inaugural parade did what it was intended to do by drawing huge crowds in near zero temperatures and boosting sales along that great street.

Through the years parade-goers have braved the cold to see their favorites including: Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly, Ronald McDonald, the Radio City Rockettes, Santa Bear, Kermit the Frog, Harry Potter, Billy Blazes, the Jingle Elf, Teddy Turkey and of course, Santa.

Drew and son Josh

Drew and son Josh

The 2013 Parade’s Grand Marshal is Actress-singer Drew Sidora, “T-Boz” in VH1′s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, the television biographical film about the R&B/Hip hop group TLC.  Alongside Sidora will be special guests including Miss Illinois 2013, Miss Illinois Teen and Pre-Teen 2013, and Miss Chicago.

This year’s lineup also includes over 100 diverse groups plus Honorary Grand Marshal Ronald McDonald®, Chicago’s favorite fun-loving bird and Parade mascot, Teddy Turkey, and, as always, an appearance by Santa Claus.

The Thanksgiving Parade route runs down State Street between Congress Parkway and Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. The parade will  broadcast live on WGN-9 Chicago and on WGN America.  In addition, the parade streams live on and will be rebroadcasted on CLTV from 2 to 5 p.m.

Here’s What to Expect

Staged Performances

The ever popular Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® kick off the parade with “Built to Amaze,” the 143rd production of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  Other staged performances include the cast of Chicago’s hit rock n’ roll musical Million Dollar Quartet, as well as the Coast2Coast Dancers, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, Circle Theatre, Emerald City Theatre’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerTM : The Musical, the Kilgore College Rangerettes, Light Opera Works’ Annie Get Your Gun, Pastor Fredrick Wilson & Chicago Christian Choir’s All Over The World, Black Ensemble Theater’s performance of Jackie Taylor’s The Story of Curtis Mayfield, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Theatre at the Center’s A Christmas Carol and the dramatic drummers of Tsukasa Taiko.

Marching Bands

What’s a parade without marching bands?  Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day parade features over 20 top bands from across the country  Among the many 2013 newcomers are bands from as far away as California (Fairfield High School), Alabama (Benjamin Russell High School) and Texas (Hendrickson High School).  These and other featured musical marchers join Chicagoland favorites, including Chicago Police & Fire Pipe Band, Kelly High School Marching Band, Marist High School Band, Rich South High School Marching Band and Rickover Marching Seadragon Band.


There’s lots of horsing around with the parade’s line-up of majestic horses including the Budweiser Clydesdales.  Marching with them on the route will be 13 different equestrian ensembles, including the Culver Lancer Platoon Mounted Color Guard (new this year), Red Hats & Purple Chaps, the adorable Bertrand’s Miniature Horses and more.


The over a dozen colorful floats include:  Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, the Indonesian Consulate General, along with floats from Brookfield Zoo, Christkindlmarket, Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet and more.

Specialty Units

Specialty Units, which march alongside the floats, balloons, horses, and bands, are a huge part of the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade each year, representing a diverse, international cadre of cultural organizations.  New units this year include the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, the Chicago Spirit Brigade, Midwestern Ghostbuster Coalition, the Golden Knights Drill Team and the Peruvian Folk Dance Center.  Returning favorites include: the Mobile Azalea Trail Maids, Crystal Lake Strikers Drumline, the McNulty Irish Dancers, the Michigan City Soul Steppers Drill Team, the fire-twirling Barefoot Hawaiians and others.


Everybody’s fav the fantastic giant balloons, 12 this year, will include: Curious George, Tazmanian Devil, Tweety, Madeline, Sid the Science Kid, Arthur and more.  Making their World Premiere in this year’s parade are:  Foofa, Garfield and Pooky and Pac-Man.

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