Detroit Thanksgiving is testament to a defiant city

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Detroit, Michigan, was once an industrial empire with a huge automobile industry, first made famous by the legendary Henry Ford. Yet only a short time ago the city filed for bankruptcy, facing a fiscal cliff that threatened its very survival amid cripplingly high unemployment rates and massive urban flight. Many likened Detroit to a war-torn metropolis.

Yet this iconic city, a standard bearer for America’s extraordinary diversity, has tried to fight back. This year, in spite of the financial emergency, there have been some encouraging signs of revitalization. These include new constructions such as the $82 million reconstruction of the David Whitney Building in downtown Detroit and the Woodward Garden Block Development in the city’s midtown area.

And every year, as it has done for almost a whole century, Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade assumes center-stage, providing a welcome opportunity to forget the city’s (and one’s own!) problems and have some fun. 

Thanksgiving Day Parade - 2012

87 – not out!

This year, Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Turkey Trot, sponsored by 5/3 Bank, takes place on Thursday, November 28. It is expected to attract more than 30,000 runners and additional parade attendees, providing a real fillip to the local economy. This, the 87th Parade, will start at Woodward Avenue and Kirby and end at Woodward Avenue and Congress in downtown Detroit. You too can enjoy the extraordinary spectacle of Detroit Thanksgiving when you take a car rental to the parade.

Thanksgiving Day Parade - 2012

A rich history

Detroit’s traditional Thanksgiving Parade began in 1924. Gimbel’s in Philadelphia was actually the first American department store to try its hand at parade sponsorship. But it was J.L. Hudson’s in Detroit (at the heart of the downtown shopping district) that first launched a parade that became enshrined in Thanksgiving traditions.

Hudson’s relinquished sponsorship in 1979 when it turned it over to the Detroit Renaissance. Sponsorship was then handed over to The Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation and, finally, in 1990, the foundation’s marketing and operating division, The Parade Company, was created.

In 1985, shortly after the parade experienced a major sponsorship change, the Distinguished Clown Corps made its first appearance in the parade. Local businessmen can serve as clowns for a $1,000 donation and many distinguished folk have done just that.

Thanksgiving Day Parade - 2012

All the fun of the fair

The Detroit Thanksgiving Parade is truly one of the most colorful in America, featuring the distinguished clown corps, flotillas and balloons. Expect to see Disney characters, school marching bands, giant floats and some genuinely eccentric incarnations – people dressed as giant ants or sunflowers and, in the past, even some participants riding penny farthing bicycles!

Previous parades have also seen horse-drawn processions, Mounties, dancers dressed as movie characters and marchers decked out in Star Wars costumes as well as giant papier-mâché heads of film stars such as Tom Selleck.

Football and footfall

What would Thanksgiving in Detroit be without a good game of football? The Detroit Lions have hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day since 1934. This year, Ford Field in downtown Detroit hosts the Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers at 12.30pm.

A Turkey Day Flop

The day after Thanksgiving, Friday November 29, is a holiday for many and Detroit hosts one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Consult your local Thanksgiving Day newspaper to acquire ads, coupons, and circulars that will give you big savings. Some deals will enable you to get an extra 10 percent off if you shop before 11am.

Other cities may have similar processions to Detroit’s, for example New York’s giant Macy’s Parade, but the Michigan parade is truly inimitable and one that just has to be experienced. So make a date to be in Detroit on November 28!

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