Make sure to mark your calendar for the FREE 2013 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, a free event attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators (click at bottom to learn more). The 2013 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade takes place LIVE on State Street between Congress Parkway and Randolph Street in downtown Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28 from 8 to 11 a.m. (CST), and this year celebrates 80 years of Chicago holiday tradition. A dozen loveable character balloons, top marching bands from across the country, festive floats, cultural groups, equestrian groups, theatrical performances and celebrity guests, plus over a thousand dedicated volunteers, all marching through the Loop, make the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade an annual celebration for the whole family. For those not in Chicago, the parade is broadcast, in its entirety, live for three hours on WGN 9 Chicago and WGN America.
This year, the Parade’s Grand Marshal is Drew Sidora, star of VH1’s biopic about TLC, CrazySexyCool, as Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins. CrazySexyCool aired on October 21 and was highest rated telecast for the network in the last five years, averaging 4.5 million total viewers. Sidora is also known for her recurring role on the sitcoms The Game and That’s So Raven and for her role in Fox’s Nurses. Some of her film credits include Never Die Alone (2004), White Chicks (2004) and Wild Hogs (2007). She received rave reviews for playing dancer Lucy Avila in the hit Disney feature Step Up (2006).
Originally called the Christmas Caravan in the 1930s, the Parade was created in 1934 to help lift the spirits of residents suffering through the Great Depression. Since then, it has developed into a full-scale spectacle that celebrates the holiday season. What once started out as an attempt to boost Chicago’s economy has evolved into a cherished holiday tradition for Chicagoans and Americans alike. The Parade includes performers and special guests representing every part of the country, as well as representing many cultures from around the world. Over 20 different cultures were represented in the 2012 Parade.
Alongside the Parade’s Grand Marshal are 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 and remarkable groups plus Honorary Grand Marshal Ronald McDonald, Chicago’s favorite fun-loving bird and Parade mascot, Teddy Turkey, and an appearance by Santa Claus.
2013 Parade Participants
Staged Performances — Parade opens with a bang: the ever popular Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey returns to present “Built to Amaze,” the 143rd production of “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Other staged performances kicking off the Parade include the cast of Chicago’s hit rock n’ roll musical Million Dollar Quartet, as well as the Coast2Coast Dancers, 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 — Each year, the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade features top marching bands from all over the country and this year over 20 different bands are featured. 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.
Equestrian — Joining the throng of majestic horses this year are the powerful and elegant 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.
Floats – Over a dozen colorful floats will delight spectators and newcomers to the 80th annual Parade lineup include Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and the Indonesian Consulate General, joining familiar floats from Brookfield Zoo, Christkindlmarket Chicago and Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet, among others.
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. These groups appear with returning favorites that 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 more!
Balloons — And what’s a parade without the fantastic giant balloons? Twelve balloons in the Parade include Curious George, Tazmanian Devil, Tweety, Madeline, Sid the Science Kid, Arthur and more. Making their World Premiere this year are Foofa, Garfield and Pooky and Pac-Man. Watch out for these characters, presented by Case New Holland, as they head down State Street. Supporting sponsors of the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade includes McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, CNH INDUSTRIAL, OneMain Financial, and Zicam.
Broadcast — WGN-9 Chicago airs the Parade live and in high definition from 8 to 11 a.m. (CST) Thursday, November 28. WGN America also broadcasts the Parade nationwide, establishing it as one of only three parades in the country to be covered live, in its entirety, on a national television broadcast (along with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA). The Parade streams live online at www.wgntv.com and CLTV rebroadcasts the parade from 2 to 5 p.m.