Whether people watched on television or experienced the spectacle in person, Philadelphia ran on Dunkin’ for this year’s 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. Families lined up along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and danced to marching bands, waved at local celebrities, cheered for their favorite floats and gave their wish lists to Santa Claus.
The parade featured a collection of high school students from more than 25 schools across the Delaware Valley performing a musical known as the “Salute to Broadway,” a cavalcade of Sesame Street characters, and special guests such as Charlie McDermott from ABC’s “The Middle,” hip hop superstar Iyaz, “American Idol” finalist Justin Guarini, and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Cheerleaders.
As the oldest Thanksgiving parade in America, the autumnal gala adds another chapter to Philadelphia’s rich history.
Established in 1920 as the Gimbels Thanksgiving day parade, the event became a larger than life commercial promoting toys during the holiday season for Gimbels Department Stores.
Originally, the parade’s route traveled from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and moved down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before concluding at Gimbels Brothers Department Store on Eighth and Market streets. Gimbels sponsored the parade until ceasing operations in 1986 when WPVI and Boscov’s stepped in to produce one of Philadelphia’s favorite turkey-day traditions. In an effort to attract an audience for the duration of the parade, Santa Claus was unveiled for the first time all year as the finale of the procession.
Renamed the 6abc Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the event adopted the modern star-studded format by showcasing 76er’s legend Julius Erving as the grand marshal and children’s icons Mickey Mouse, the Care Bears and Fred Flintstone.
Without Gimbels running the show, the parade changed paths to its current route that started at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, went down JFK to City Hall and then up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where it ended at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
After filing for bankruptcy in 2008, Boscov’s relinquished the reigns of parade sponsorship. WPVI reached out to IKEA who filled the void from 2008 until 2010 with the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade.
As a 35-year parade attendee, John Fitzgerald has passed on the tradition of attending to his children.
“The feel of the floats, people, bands and crisp air make the parade one of my favorite experiences of the year,” Fitzgerald said.
“Watching the old floats get replaced by the newer characters is always interesting,” Fitzgerald added. “The parade gives you a chance to relax your mind and forget all of the daily troubles.”
In addition to sponsors presenting tents with free food and company paraphernalia, the Boy Scouts collect canned goods from spectators each year to feed the hungry and homeless for the holiday.
Although Jozef Jozefowski said he appreciates the festivities, he said growing up has reduced his incentive for attending the parade.
“I have been coming since I was a little kid,” Jozefowski, a 2011 Temple alumnus said. “Growing up has definitely made the parade worse because the magic of Christmas has disappeared over time.”
While attendees enjoyed their day off, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health was hard at work cracking down on food vendors such as Wayne Stewart who failed to pass inspection due to a lack of hot water.
Inspector Deborah Griffin explained that vendors need to be evaluated in order to insure the health and safety of parade goers.
“We are trying to keep citizens safe by enforcing regulations,” Griffin said.
“These illegal pretzel vendors are the main problem because they urinate in public and use hand sanitizer rather than soap and water to wash their hands,” Griffin said. “If people are going to come every year, Philadelphia needs a public service announcement regarding food safety.”
John Corrigan can be reached at email@example.com.