Detroit Thanksgiving Parade: A History
By: Michael Fossbakk
November 21, 2018
Did you know America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit has been around for almost 100 years? That’s almost as old as my dad! (Kidding, Pappa).
But, seriously, that makes the parade one of the oldest traditions in Detroit. It all started with a man named J.L. Hudson, founder of Hudson’s department store in Detroit. Well, actually, it was Hudson’s display director Charles Wendel that came up with the idea for the parade. Wendel was inspired by Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, Ontario and set out to make a Thanksgiving parade sponsored by Hudson’s department store.
The inaugural parade in Detroit kicked off 1924 (the same year as Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City) and has continued to spread holiday cheer every year since with the exception of 1943 and 1944 due to material shortages during World War II. Hudson’s was the sponsor of the parade until 1979 at which point Detroit Renaissance Foundation produced the parade until 1983. Since then, the tailor-made Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation has continued the tradition.
Each year, onlookers on Woodward Avenue and 100 million viewers at home enjoy the parade. Thanks to the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation and thousands of volunteers, enormous floats, cartoon characters, marching bands and more walk the two-mile route, handing out candy and putting on a wonderful holiday show. The end of the parade is capped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself!
Will you be heading downtown to get a “front seat” on Woodward Avenue? If crowds aren’t your thing (you’re not alone), WDIV, Local 4 will be broadcasting the parade on T.V. The fun starts at 8:45 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.
While you’re downtown, check out everything there is to do in Campus Martius and the surrounding area. If you’re not going to be fixing Thanksgiving dinner for yourself, find out where to eat out on the big day.