Tuesday, November 24, 2015


  " Are you ready for Chicago's Grand Holiday Tradition?"

   Santa Claus, Ronald McDonald and a cast of thousands bring you the 2015 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade, marching down State Street on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th.
   Whether you're moving your feet to the uplifting melodies of marching bands, gazing skyward at gigantic inflatable helium balloons making their way down the street, or waving at talented entertainers in decorative floats dispensing holiday cheer, there is fun to be had by all at the biggest holiday parade in Chicagoland.


   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 assues 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.

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   The parade saw it's 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.

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   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 ot 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 ever 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.

The different names of "Chicago's Grand Holiday Tradition"

  • 1934: Christmas Caravan
On State Street from Wacker Drive to Congress Parkway
  • 1935–1983: State Street Christmas Parade
  • 1984: McDonald's Children's Charity Parade
parade route changed as well, now on Michigan Avenue From Balbo Avenue to Wacker Drive
  • 1990: The Brach's Kids Holiday Parade (Brach's Confections)
  • 1998: The Field's Jingle Elf Parade (sponsored by Marshall Field's)
  • 1999: The Field's Jingle Elf Parade Presented by Target & Marshall Field's
parade route and date changed as well, now on Thanksgiving Day and back on State Street, moving north from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street
  • 2002: Target Thanksgiving Parade (Target Corporation)
  • 2003: State Street Thanksgiving Parade
  • 2006: McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade

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   Every year, more than 100 different groups, otherwise known as units, walk down the parade route. These units are made up of Giant Inflatables, Specialty Units, Equestrian Units, Marching Bands, and Floats.

Teddy Turkey

   Teddy Turkey is the fun-loving, plump mascot of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade. Teddy Turkey made his first live appearance in the 2009 parade. Teddy also is known to make appearances throughout the city, helping to spread the holiday spirit – year round – to everyone he meets.


   The McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade uses primarily helium balloons, which have the benefit of floating in the air. In recent years, a helium shortage has caused several parades to cut down or cease their helium use altogether. However, The producers of this parade have yet to express any plans to move to cold air balloons; only one or two cold air balloons are used every year. Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade is the city's only event that features inflatable balloons every year.

 Parade school

   Every year, the producers of the parade  hold a parade training school to ensure sufficient preparation in several of the volunteers. For many years the Chicago Festival Association, the parade's producers, have been partnered with the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, and hold the day's proceedings there. The main attraction and section of the school is for the balloon handlers, a name given to the volunteers who balance the giant inflatables as they go down the parade route.  All volunteers are treated to a sneak preview of the parade. 2010's parade school included performances from Miss Illinois and the 501st Midwest Garrison. Honorary Grand Marshal Ronald McDonald also gave a motivational speech and emceed the event.

   Although the producers of the parade organize and run the Parade School primarily as a means to train the volunteers so they're ready on the day of the parade, they have started to see a consistent and alternative pattern. A great number of veteran volunteers return to the training every year because of their enjoyment of the Parade School itself, forcing the parade organizers to have more preparations at the ready.

 Balloon inflation

   The balloons for the parade begin the inflation process before sunrise to the south of the beginning of the parade route. It takes several people to fill each balloon with helium or cold air.

The Parade Today

   In 2000, the Chicago Festival Association was given the rights to produce the Field's Jingle Elf Parade by the City of Chicago.  Before that time, the parade had been produced for several years by the Chicago Christmas Parade Association.  In 1999 the Chicago Christmas Parade Association's last year brought a significant change, as they reverted the parade route back to State Street.  The parade had previously been on Michigan Avenue.
   Many followers took a great deal of pride that the parade had returned to State Street. However, because of the positive effect that the Michigan Avenue parade route had on the city's economy—bringing many potential holiday shoppers into the many world-famous stores on Michigan Avenue--many individuals voiced great criticism. After all, the Greater State Street Council had made it very clear that no State Street businesses would be open for business on Thanksgiving Day.  The Chicago Festival Association responded that although the parade was originally created to stimulate economic growth, the parade now primarily exists as a community celebration.   In any case, as the parade has made powerful and surprising growth in only a few short years, Chicago's economy is continuing to see the parade's growing benefits. Hence, criticism about its location change has long-since passed.

   Since that time, the organization has made many more significant changes, and today the parade is capturing much more attention. In 2002, the Chicago Festival Association changed the parade format from a Christmas or often broadly-labeled holiday parade to the Thanksgiving parade that it is today. In only a few years, the number of spectators on the streets have increased by hundreds of thousands. The parade is also given a live national broadcast. This is generally considered expedient growth, as the parade was available in no more than a handful of cities only two years ago.
   Since 2006, McDonald's has been partnered with the Chicago Festival Association as the parade's title sponsor. Although it isn't publicly known how long McDonald's plans to be the parade's title sponsor, they have frequently and publicly expressed great excitement to sponsor such a quickly growing and greatly loved event.
   In 2007, the Chicago Festival Association recruited the pop rock group Plain White T's to perform in the parade. In the last couple of years, the band had reached great success and their single Hey There Delilah had been number one on the Billboard Charts for two weeks. Despite the unseasonably cold temperatures, the Plain White T's agreed to do a free performance in the parade, which was no doubt greatly because of the parade's quickly growing ratings along with the event's first ever national broadcast.
   In 2008, the parade was on its 75th year. That year's parade was broadcasted for three hours, from 8 am to 11 am CST on WGN-TV9 and WGN-DT9.1 in Chicago, and WGN America nationwide. This makes the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade one of only two parades (the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade being the other) to be broadcast in its entirety to a nationwide audience. 2008 also featured Grand Marshal Jennie Finch, WWE Superstar CM Punk and the Harlem Globetrotters.
   In 2010, Grand Marshal Jennifer Beals, Honorary Grand Marshal Ronald McDonald, and Santa Claus were featured in a three-hour entertainment extravaganza. The parade featured the top marching bands in the country, including powerhouses Marist High School, Proviso East High School, Houston County High School and more. The parade featured the debut of several giant balloons as well, including Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, and Scooby Doo.


   What make the holidays super special apart from the food, family and friends, are the traditions. Some traditions are…well, very traditional. But others can be fun and very weird. Here’s a highlight of the weirdest and most interesting Christmas traditions from around the world.

1Christmas Pickle

   First in line, the Christmas Pickle.
    It’s an old tradition where a pickle ornament is hidden on the Christmas tree. The first person to find the pickle among all the other ornament is said to recieve an extra present on Christmas. The tradition has stories originating from the Spain to Germany, but either way it seems like a fun and not to mention weird tradition!

2Skating to Mass


   From December 16th to December 24th, there’s a very unique tradition that takes place in Caracas, Venezuela. The busy city streets of Caracas are closed off before 8 AM to any motor traffic. This allows the streets to be open to traffic on 4-wheelers! It has been customary in Venezuela to attend Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass) and by closing traffic off to bulky cars and buses, everyone can skate to mass on time.


    Here’s an odd item you wouldn’t automatically associate with Christmas.
   On a Ukrainian Christmas tree the site of a spider or web is not unusual. The folk tale that goes with the tradition says a poor family woke up on Christmas morning to find their once bare tree decorated with spider webs that shined silver and gold in the morning sun.

4. Crackers


   Christmas crackers or bon-bons are a fun item to celebrate with in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries. The cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in holiday wrapping twisted at the ends. The fun part starts when you hold on to one side of the twisted end, another person holds the other, and you pull! With a BANG, the cracker will split unevenly, and the luckier individual will be holding the longer end of the cracker — which holds a special prize. (Image credit: Sparkly Kate via Flickr)
   Crackers are also a part of New Years celebration in some places. Wouldn’t it be just fun if crackers were a part of every holiday?

5Fried Chicken

Make reservation for your Christmas Chicken today! Those residing in Japan have already begun the process of pre-ordering their fried chicken for Christmas.
   Unlike the traditional ham or turkey Americans are used to seeing during the holidays, many in Japan celebrate by eating fried chicken. While less than 1 percent of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, by the power of marketing and advertising it has become common practice to eat KFC during Christmas. The meal is also accompanied by a delicious Christmas cake for dessert. Let the feasting begin!

6. Christmas Witch


  In Italy, children will go to bed waiting for a magical being to bring presents, and I don’t mean Santa Claus.
   In Italian folklore, an old witch delivers gifts and candy to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). Santa’s competitor, La Befana, is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick, usually covered in soot as she enters homes through chimneys. Very similar to the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children will leave wine and food out for the Befana.

7. Brooms


Ok — so going along with the Christmas Witch story, here’s one about brooms. There’s a superstition in Norway that advises households to hide their brooms on Christmas Eve. It is believed that witches and evil spirits will rise from the graves and use the brooms to fly through the sky and create chaos until dawn. Doesn’t this sound very much like Halloween?



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Barack Obama

 National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year shortly before Thanksgiving. The President of the United States is presented with a live domestic turkey, usually of the Broad Breasted White variety. Generally the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board are involved. The ceremony dates back to the 1940s, with presidents occasionally sparing the bird presented to them; since 1989, during George H. W. Bush's first Thanksgiving as president, it has been an annual tradition for the president to "pardon" the turkey.

Lyndon Johnson


   The presentation of a turkey to the President each year began in 1947 under President Harry Truman, and many sources erroneously attribute the origin of the turkey pardon to Truman. However, the Truman Library says that no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs or other contemporary records are known to exist that specify that he ever "pardoned" a turkey; there are records that he publicly admitted to eating at least some of them.  The Eisenhower Presidential Library says documents in their collection reveal that President Dwight Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him during his two terms. President John F. Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 18, 1963, just four days before his assassination. The bird was wearing a sign reading, "Good Eatin' Mr. President." Kennedy returned the massive 55-pound turkey to the farm, saying "we'll let this one grow."  At least one headline in the Los Angeles Times referred to it as a pardon, but Kennedy did not formally refer to it as such.  Likewise, Richard Nixon also spared some of the turkeys given to him during his time as President.

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George W. Bush

   The first President on record issuing a "pardon" to his turkey was Ronald Reagan, who pardoned a turkey named Charlie and sent him to a petting zoo in 1987. The reference to it being a pardon was in response to criticism over the Iran-Contra affair, in which Reagan had been questioned on whether or not he would consider pardoning Oliver North (who had yet to be tried for his involvement in the affair); Reagan conjured the turkey pardon as a joke to deflect those questions.  Reagan did not pardon a turkey in his final year as President in 1988, but his successor, George H. W. Bush, instituted the turkey pardon as a permanent part of the presentation beginning his first year in office, 1989. Since then, at least one of the turkeys presented to the President has been taken to a farm where it will live out the rest of its natural life. For many years the turkeys were sent to Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. From 2005 to 2009, the pardoned turkeys were sent to either the Disneyland Resort in California or the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, where they served as the honorary grand marshals of Disney's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, the turkeys were sent to live at Mount Vernon, the estate and home of George Washington; Mount Vernon stopped displaying and accepting the turkeys due to the fact that they violated the estate's policy of maintaining its own historical accuracy (Washington never farmed turkeys). The 2013 and 2014 turkeys were sent to Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia, the estate of former Virginia governor (and prolific turkey farmer) Westmoreland Davis.

Ronald Reagan


   The turkeys are raised in the same fashion as turkeys designated for slaughter and are fed a grain-heavy diet of fortified corn and soybeans to increase the birds' size.  A flock of approximately 80 birds, typically from the farm of the current National Turkey Federation chairperson, are randomly selected "at birth" from thousands for pardoning and are trained to handle loud noises, flash photography and large crowds; from the flock of 80, the 20 largest and best-behaved are chosen and eventually narrowed down to two finalists, whose names are chosen by the White House staff.Because most Thanksgiving turkeys are bred and raised for size at the expense of longer life, they are prone to health problems associated with obesity such as heart disease, respiratory failure and joint damage. As a result of these factors, most of the pardoned turkeys have very short lives after their pardoning, frequently dying within a year of being pardoned; for comparison, a wild or heritage turkey has a lifespan of at least five years.

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Harry S. Truman


  • 2000: Bill Clinton pardoned "Jerry the Turkey", a 45-pounder hatched 2000-06-05 near Barron in Wisconsin. The pardoned turkey (the eighth in Clinton's presidency) and its unnamed alternate were both sent to Kidwell Farm's petting zoo in Herndon, Virginia.
  • 2001: George W. Bush pardoned Liberty and his back-up Freedom, so named in the wake of 9/11 attacks. They weighed 48 and 52 pounds, respectively.
  • 2002: George W. Bush pardoned the first-ever female turkey in the ceremony, Katie, a 30-pound bird bred by Ron Prestage, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, as well as alternate bird Zack. The turkeys were named after Prestage's children.
  • 2003: Bush pardoned Stars and backup Stripes.
  • 2004: Bush pardoned Biscuits and backup Gravy.
  • 2005: Bush pardoned Marshmallow and alternate bird Yam, raised in Henning, Minnesota. Beginning in 2005 pardoned birds were sent to Disneyland to live, and serve as the "honorary grand marshal" of that year's thanksgiving day parade, following concerns raised by animal rights groups that the birds had not survived for long. For the previous 15 years they had been sent to Frying Pan Park near Herndon, Virginia.  Names were generally chosen in online votes taken at the White House website.
  • 2006: Bush pardoned Flyer and alternate bird Fryer, raised in Missouri.
  • 2007: Bush pardoned 45-pound May and backup Flower, raised in Indiana.
  • 2008: Bush pardoned 45-pound backup "vice" turkey named Pumpkin, after the number one turkey Pecan fell ill the night before the ceremony. Both turkeys were allowed to live.
  • 2009: Barack Obama pardoned Courage, a 45-pound turkey provided by the National Turkey Federation, and alternate bird Carolina, raised in North Carolina.
  • 2010: Obama pardoned Apple, and alternate bird Cider.  Both had died of natural causes by Thanksgiving 2011.
  • 2011: Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Liberty and an alternate bird named Peace, both of which were raised in Willmar, Minnesota.  Peace survived until shortly before Thanksgiving 2012, when he was euthanized.  Liberty survived until being euthanized April 26, 2013 at the age of 2.
  • 2012: Obama pardoned Cobbler and Gobbler, both 40-pound turkeys from Rockingham County, Virginia.   Gobbler died suddenly in February 2013; Cobbler was euthanized on August 22 of that year.
  • 2013: Obama pardoned Popcorn, a 38 pounds (17 kg) turkey from Badger, Minnesota. Popcorn won an online contest over its identically sized stablemate Caramel, which was also spared.  Popcorn died of heatstroke in summer 2014; Caramel was still alive as of November 2014 and at last report resided with its companion, a heritage brown turkey named Franklin, at Morven Park.
  • 2014: Obama pardoned Cheese and alternate bird Mac, both of which were 48 pound turkeys from Fort Recovery, Ohio.