Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade marches into 96th year

This year’s holiday season kickoff will feature nine new floats. Parade Company CEO Tony Michaels says it takes a whole year to plan.

colorful floats from Detroit's 2021 Thanksgiving Parade

Colorful floats from Detroit's 2021 Thanksgiving Parade.

It’s not even Halloween yet, but preparations are already underway for America’s Thanksgiving Parade on Woodward Ave. in Detroit.

“We have to get the floats built, and then of course we put on all these other events.” — Parade Co. CEO Tony Michaels talks about planning the parade.

The holiday tradition is almost a century old. Parade Company President and CEO Tony Michaels says as soon as one year’s parade is over, they start planning for the next one.

“We had six contracts that ran out on Thanksgiving 2021,” he says. “Within a week, we had five of those contracts re-up for three more years, so we literally start right away.”

Detroit’s 2021 Thanksgiving Parade celebrates Motown.

This year, the Parade Company is building nine new floats, which Michaels says is unheard of.

“Three are brand new companies who have not done anything with us before, which is really exciting,” he says. “We have 25 freelance sculpting artists who take this wonderful art and they turn it into a float here in our studio.”

In addition to the sculptors, the Parade Company recruits about 2,000 volunteers. They perform a variety of tasks such as painting or ushering spectators into the grandstands.

While planning began after the 2021 parade, Michaels says the Parade Company has a lot of work to do before this year’s event.

“We have to get the floats built,” he says. “And then we put on all these (other) great events.”

Those include the annual Hob Nobble Gobble, a black-tie charity event that raises money for the Parade Company. There’s also the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, which draws hundreds of runners to Woodward Ave. hours before the parade begins.

The one thing organizers can’t always plan for is the weather, which was rainy and cold in 2021. Michaels offers a hopeful forecast for 2022.

“55 degrees and sunny, how does that sound?”

The theme of this year’s parade is “Our Great City! Detroit!!” It starts at 8:45 a.m. on Nov. 24 at the corner of Woodward and Kirby Street near the main branch of the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Photo Credit: Pat Batcheller, WDET.

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  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.