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Encyclopedia Of Detroit
America's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Thanksgiving parade has been a holiday tradition in Detroit for more than 80 years. Founded by J.L. Hudson's, downtown Detroit’s legendary department store, the parade first rolled down Woodward Avenue in 1924, the same year that Macy’s began its parade in New York City.
For generations of Michigan families, the official holiday season did not start until “the real Santa Claus” stepped from the parade’s final float onto the Woodward marquee of Hudson’s to accept the key to both the city “and the hearts of good children everywhere.” The next day, elevators whisked throngs of parents and children up to the store’s magnificently-decorated toyland for a personal visit with the man in red velvet.
Detroit’s first Thanksgiving parade featured horses pulling a float decorated with Mother Goose, four papier-mâché heads and seven marching bands. Over the years, the parade’s size and scope has grown significantly, as it has entertained millions of bundled-up fans along its two-mile route down Woodward with giant balloons, floats, marching bands, cartoon characters, celebrities and more.
Local business and community leaders also volunteer as the parade’s Distinguished Clown Corps, doling out candy and good cheer to all parade attendees.
First televised locally in 1948, the parade is now broadcast nationally to more than 100 million viewers.
Hudson’s stopped sponsoring the parade in 1979, four years before closing its mammoth downtown store for good. But if the Hudson’s name is gone (along with its flagship downtown store), the event lives on as America’s Thanksgiving Parade, supported by area corporations and the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation whose non-profit Parade Company organizes the event with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
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