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Detroit Youth Choir, Dennis Archer Headline 2019 Thanksgiving Parade

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Image credit: Pat Batcheller

America’s Got Talent runners-up share grand marshal duties with former Detroit mayor. New floats are coming, too.

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Preparations are underway for America’s Thanksgiving Parade on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The grand marshals for the 2019 parade are the Detroit Youth Choir and former mayor Dennis Archer. 

Tony Michaels is the president and CEO of the Parade Company. He says it was easy to honor the youth choir, which finished second on the most recent season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent competition.

They really put Detroit on a wonderful stage,” Michaels says. “Think about what they did as young people, what they accomplished and the message they sent. It was just magical.”

The choir will open the parade with a performance on Woodward Ave. at 10 a.m. 

Dennis Archer was Detroit’s mayor from 1994 through 2001. Before that, he served as a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. Michaels says this is the first time Archer has served as grand marshal.

This is long overdue,” Michaels says. 

Additional celebrities and performers will be announced closer to Thanksgiving Day.

Click on the player to hear Tony Michaels speaking with WDET’s Pat Batcheller, and read a transcript, edited for clarity, below.


WDET’s Pat Batcheller: Choosing the Detroit Youth Choir was a pretty easy call, wasn’t it?

Tony Michaels, Parade Company: Yes. They really put Detroit on a wonderful stage. Think about what they did as young people, what they accomplished, the message they sent. It was just magical, it really, really was.

Parade Co. CEO Tony Michaels Pat Batcheller
Pat Batcheller

Parade Co. CEO Tony Michaels

The other grand marshal is former mayor Dennis Archer. Has he ever had this honor before?

No, he hasn’t, and this is long overdue for such a classy individual who did and does so much for the city of Detroit. Just pure class. We think we’ve got a wonderful combination this year as co-grand marshals.

Will the Detroit Youth Choir be performing?

They are going to open the parade for the live crowd on Woodward and the television audience right at 10 a.m. And that is going to be one really special moment for everyone in and around Detroit, and broadcast in 184 cities across America. We will also have six brand new floats. Every year, we try to make them bigger and bolder. You’re going to see things going down Woodward you’ve never seen before.

How long does it take to build a float?

The Quicken Loans float from 2018Pat Batcheller
Pat Batcheller

The Quicken Loans float from 2018

The new Art Van float — they do one every two years — has taken us four months to build. And it is amazing. I can tell you it’s ‘Christmas Under the Sea.’ So, you’re going to see a lot of fish, a lot of things happening under the sea, and I think it’s going to blow people away. It’s just going to be one of those magical years in Detroit with everything we have planned. When the kids are done singing, we will bus them down to the beginning of the parade and they will get right on front of Santa Claus, and be able to come all the way down the parade route and see everyone.

You prepare for this event all year. What goes into the planning?

There’s so much. You think about it, there are 10,000 moving parts, from the great volunteers that we have helping us to the contracts we have to sell, and then build these floats, and the other entertainment. It doesn’t stop, And just that day alone, we line up 80 separate live interviews with our sponsors and partners on various television and radio stations. It’s quite a program. None of this can happen without the volunteers. None of it. There are over 1,500 volunteers who do everything from balloon school, to driving school, to banner carrying, you name it, they’re there for us. We can’t do it without them.


Pat Batcheller, Senior News Editor

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.

pbatcheller@wdet.org Follow @patbwdet

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