Mc Donald's Thanksgiving Parade - History

History

In 1934, the United States had been in the Great Depression for six years. Many leaders in Chicago searched for ways to boost the economy as well as public spirit. Walter Gregory, President of Chicago's State Street Council, proposed a Christmas parade to Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly in the hopes that it would improve the moods of Chicago residents. The Mayor agreed to the parade, being primarily interested in its potential to improve Chicago's economy.

Chicago's first Christmas Parade was on State Street on December 7, 1934. Gregory and a costumed Santa Claus led the caravan, which was filled with toys and various merchandise from State Street businesses. As the city's government officials had hoped, the parade contributed to desirable growth in the local economy and 1934 held the city's largest holiday buying period since 1927. This was both exciting and surprising for the entire city. Not only was it the Depression, but that day held dangerously low temperatures throughout the entire state. Some areas of Illinois were as low as fourteen degrees below zero (fahrenheit).

In 1935, the city was in even worse financial status as a result of the Depression. The city could not afford the expensive floats that were used the year before. However, the event had been so successful in the previous year that The State Street Council and the City of Chicago agreed to use an old trolley to pull the floats, as there were trolley tracks on State Street at the time.

The parade underwent a leadership change in 1968, when the Mayor's Office of Special Events took over the responsibility of producing the holiday parade when the State Street Council determined that it could no longer fund the parade. Mayor Richard J. Daley assures the children of Chicago that Santa Claus will still be coming to town as usual.

In 1969, the Chicago Tribune reported that more than 1.5 million people lined the parade route.

In 1981, Over 100 Santas hand out over 10,000 balloons as hundreds of thousands watch the parade.

The parade saw its first title sponsor in 1984. The parade was renamed "The Ronald McDonald Children's Charities Parade." The route of the parade was also changed from State Street to Michigan Avenue. McDonald's was the title sponsor until 1989, and has had some sort of sponsorship with the parade to this day.

In 1990, the parade became known as "The Brach's Kid's Holiday Parade." Local confectionier Brach's Confections, Inc. assumed the title sponsorship of the parade until 1998.

In 1998, Marshall Field's took over as title sponsor of the parade. "The Field's Jingle Elf Parade" was created and lasted through the 2001 parade. The Radio City Rockettes began a three-year run of opening the parade's television broadcast with a high-kicking routine. That same year, the parade started focusing on debuting several giant character balloons. Starting with Kermit the Frog and Billy Blazes, Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade has introduced more recognizable character balloons since this time than any other parade in the country.

In 1999, Target joined Marshal Field's as the title sponsor. The parade is moved back to State Street, and for the first time, takes place on Thanksgiving Day.

In 2001, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus became the parade's newest opening act – a position it still holds to this day. This year, the circus introduces the first elephant to appear in the parade.

The "Target Thanksgiving Parade" was formed in 2002, as Target takes over title sponsorship of the parade. In this year, CFA signed a five-year national syndication deal with ABC 7 Chicago. A partnership with CFA and The League of Chicago Theatres was formed as well, resulting in several local and national touring theatre companies performing vignettes of their current productions for the parade.

In 2003, the parade was renamed to the "State Street Thanksgiving Parade." The parade presented its first-ever unit from Hawaii – E la Ka Hololio Me Ke Kahiau, a traditional equestrian group from Kailua, Hawaii.

In 2004, the City of Zurich (Switzerland) Police Band makes its Chicago debut as the first international unit to appear in the parade.

In 2006, the parade assumed the name "McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade," as the McDonald's Owners of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana and the McDonald's Corporation announce a two-year title sponsorship of the parade. Close to a half-million spectators line Chicago's State Street for one of the warmest Thanskgiving mornings in memory.

In 2007, WGN-TV and CFA announce that the station will broadcast the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade live and in high definition on WGN 9 Chicago. Available in 72 million homes at that time, Superstation WGN will also air the parade live across the nation. This establishes the parade as one of three parades in the country to be covered live, in its entirety, on a national television broadcast.

In 2008, the parade celebrates its 75th step-off with a three hour live broadcast. The first hour of the parade features the best in local theatre and culture, with the rest of the parade featuring the traditional, forward motion parade.

In 2010, the parade announced local-born actress Jennifer Beals as its Grand Marshal. The parade reached a record high 3.75 million viewers across the country. Over 350,000 spectators braved the elements and attended the parade in person on State Street.

In 2011, the crowds enjoyed clear weather and a parade line-up consisting of Grand Marshal Holland Taylor, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Chicago cast of Million Dollar Quartet, the Eriam Sisters, Celeste Kellogg and more.

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