The 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual Thanksgiving Day Santa Claus parade held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, currently sponsored and aired by WPVI-TV. Its currently the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country. It was formerly known as the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 6abc Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and originally the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade until Gimbels department store closed in 1987.
Started in 1920, the Philadelphia parade is billed as the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country. Like other parades of its type, it features balloons, floats, high school marching bands, and celebrities. When the parade was begun, it was called the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade. Ellis Gimbel, one of the founders of Gimbels Department Stores, wanted his toyland to be the destination of holiday shoppers everywhere. He had more than 50 store employees dressed in costume and sent to walk in their first Thanksgiving Day parade. Another big part of the parade was seeing Santa Claus arrive. Gimbels created the Thanksgiving Day Parade in the United States, and his example led to the founding of similar parades in other cities. The retail parade tradition continues today. When BATUS Inc. was unable to find a buyer for Gimbels in 1986, the department store chain was liquidated; the fate of the country's oldest parade was up in the air.
In 2004, the parade celebrated its 85th anniversary with new balloons and floats. An opening number paid tribute to the celebrities who had participated in the parade during its history. In 2005 the parade had the most stars in the parade's history, as well as eight new balloons, more than ever before. In 2007, the parade presented the first parade float with an ice rink on it, used by Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour (WPVI and High School Musical are both owned by Disney).
In August 2008, Boscov's Department Stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and planned to close several stores, due to financial problems from the widespread recession. They gave up sponsorship of the parade. The Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA, whose North American home office and a major store are located in nearby Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, took over sponsorship until 2010.
In June 2011, it was announced that Dunkin' Donuts would sponsor the parade.
Television coverageAlthough the Parade is broadcast by WPVI, the parade is also syndicated to television stations throughout the United States and can be seen world wide on the station's website 6abc.com. Good Morning America, ABC's national morning show, sends a reporter to the parade each year and covers pre-parade festivities.
The first people to host the parade were Jim O'Brien and Dave Roberts. After the sudden death of O'Brien in 1983, WPVI's Lisa Thomas-Laury "took the reins" as Roberts' co-host. They hosted the parade together for nearly 20 years until Thomas-Laury began to experience health problems in 2003. This led to WPVI weather anchor Cecily Tynan taking over for Thomas-Laury. In 2006, the parade was broadcast in high definition (HDTV) for the first time.
Since her return to Action News, Thomas-Laury helped host the final portion of the parade in 2005 and in 2006. In 2009, the station announced that Roberts would retire from broadcasting on December 11 of that year. Thomas-Laury made a special appearance in the 2009 parade to celebrate Roberts's years as host. The current hosting team is Tynan and WPVI news anchor Rick Williams, who replaced Roberts.
BalloonsBalloons have been created to represent a wide variety of characters from popular children's books, including folk tales; toys, comic books, animated movies (cartoons), TV series (such as Sesame Street), films and other genres. Increasingly over the years, the balloons have featured characters who have tie-in marketing of toys, games and accessories.
Stars, performers, and acts
In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the parade also features live music and other performances. High-school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by famous singers and bands. Since 1997, the parade has also featured a tap routine called "FanTAPulous", with more than 450 dancers from the East Coast. Other special guests include state and national beauty contest winners, cheerleaders of major sports teams, casts from musicals performing in Philadelphia, and Santa and Mrs. Claus.
6abc Dunkin' Donuts Holiday Food Drive
The parade sponsors also organize a related food drive, one of the largest in the nation. (In recent years, until 2006, it was called the 6abc/Boy Scouts Holiday Food Drive). The food drive distributes paper bags to residents' homes and collection boxes at local stores in the region. A few weeks later, they are picked up and sent to help those in need at Thanksgiving and the end of year holidays. The Boy Scouts also go to the parade route every year and collect food from spectators. The parade and food drive sponsors are generally the same. It was announced in June 2011 that Dunkin' Donuts would also co-sponsor the food drive.