The America’s Thanksgiving Parade began in 1924 in Detroit and was the idea of Charles F. Wendel, the display manager at J.L. Hudson’s. He was inspired by a stunt in Toronto that had Santa arriving at Eaton’s department store.
On a trip to Italy, Wendel experienced the carnivals of Venice and Viareggio that featured giant papier mâché heads. These papier mâché heads figured prominently in the first parade and are still a proud tradition in the Detroit parade.
The parade, now entering its 83rd year, started the same year as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. This years theme is "Together We Shine."
From The Parade Company’s website:
The theme celebrates The Parade Company bringing a spark of magic and people together to enjoy one of Detroit’s largest and free events where for one special moment, families can be entertained, share a tradition and create a memory. As we celebrate the theme of this year’s Parade, we are asking the metro Detroit community to join together to celebrate this civic event that is so important to our community.
Now, I’ve known for a while that The Parade Company gives behind the scenes tours of their studios all year long. However, when I called them I was told that the tours were for a minimum of 10 people. I didn’t have 10 people.
So, I did what any self-respecting blogger would do, I just showed up. The Brownie troop that was checking in before us was confusing and frustrating the guy at the desk. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t let my husband and me join one of the other groups.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed another official looking person. She was dressed brightly, smiling and wearing a nametag. I don’t want to get her in trouble so I’ll just call her D.
D was searching through the crowd trying to fill a few spots to walk in the parade in costume. (As of last Saturday they were still seeking 3 people of medium size and one size small.)
I started chatting to D and asked her if we could join a pre-booked tour. She asked the frustrated guy at the desk and he said they were fully booked for the day. She seemed surprised at this answer, “how can another 2 people matter.”
By this time I was getting a bit ballsy and asked her if we could just take a peek into the studios. She said no.
Then, to my surprise, she said very loudly, “Oh, you want to use the restrooms? They’re over here.” With a wink and a nudge she led us into the warehouse/studio and told us not to go into a specific area and what doors to exit by. And she was gone.
We didn’t get to see much or have the benefit of the full tour but we did get a sneak peek. We were also quite lucky that a few of the floats were out front, waiting to be repaired.
Besides the behind-the-scenes tours that are available year round (except this week) D also clued me in on “A Day in Paradeland,” which is this Saturday, November 28th. There will be games, entertainment, arts and crafts, and a chance to see the floats that will travel down Woodward Avenue on Thanksgiving Day.
There is an online coupon for "A Day in Paradeland" that brings the cost down to $5 for adults.
The parade kicks off at 9:20 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Whether you're watching from home or from the parade route, enjoy one of the great Detroit traditions.