Thanksgiving in Detroit wouldn’t be complete without its signature parade. On the brink of its 100th anniversary, America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner White features three new floats and a Broadway performance this year, as well as honors Detroit icons Huel Perkins and Lomas Brown as its Grand Marshals.
Voted America’s Best Holiday Parade three times by USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards – including last year – they join a colorful spectacle of vibrant floats, marching bands, giant balloons, performers and, of course, a visit from Santa. The parade marches south from Kirby to Congress streets along Woodward Avenue. It steps out at 8:40 a.m. and will air live on WDIV (Channel 4) at 10 a.m.
“This is one of the most special mornings in America, right here in Detroit,” said Tony Michaels, president and CEO of the Parade Company. “To be side by side to take this in and smile… this is that moment where you separate from whatever your life brings to sit and watch.”
Opening the parade is Broadway singer Lauren Nicole Chapman. Chapman is a West Bloomfield Township native currently starring as Anna in the touring production of Disney’s “Frozen,” performing at the Detroit Opera House Nov. 29 – Dec. 17. She will be singing Anna’s signature song, “For the First Time in Forever.”
Chapman said she grew up watching the parade with her family every Thanksgiving morning, and it’s something she’s always wanted to do.
“It’s its own energy, and its own fun crazy morning, but it’s such an honor to be representing the show in that way, especially in my hometown,” she said.
Michaels said he is thrilled to have a performance from a local talent.
“I think it’s absolutely fabulous to have somebody who knows this parade, from here, who has gone off and done amazing things, and now here she is opening this great event in our city,” he said. “I think the best ever.”
The Barton Malow construction company, Corewell Health and the Skillman Foundation sponsored the three new floats.
Barton Malow will be debuting “Building Today for a Better Tomorrow,” celebrating its nearly 100-year history. The float is more than 100 feet long and will showcase the company’s most notable projects, including Little Caesars Arena, the Detroit Post Office and the Hudson’s site development project locally, as well as Daytona International Speedway, Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and Camden Yards (home of the Baltimore Orioles) nationally.
Its notable features include a revolving cement truck, spinning race flags and a building that will tip backward as it goes under the People Mover, which uses Barton Malow’s LIFTbuild technology.
“Part of this celebration is honoring our history and heritage while looking ahead to our future,” said Barton Malow President and CEO Ryan Maibach in a press release. “The float represents the diversity of work that we do across North America and the tremendous accomplishments of our 3,500+ team members.”
Corewell Health’s “Together We Can” is a puzzled-themed float with moving characters and 582 larger-than-life pieces. It includes a 16-foot football player and a 26-foot replica of the state of Michigan and is meant to represent the various elements that must fit together to achieve health and wellness.
“Our float tells the Corewell Health story – how we are coming together every day to make health simple, affordable, equitable and exceptional for the people and communities we serve,” said Tina Freese Decker, Corewell Health president and CEO in a press release.
Aaliyah Crowder, a fourth-grade student at Detroit’s University Prep Art & Design Elementary School, designed the Skillman Foundation’s new float as the winner of its 32nd annual Skillman Foundation Float Design Contest. Entitled “Together We Shine,” the float features a 10-foot globe, a colorful rainbow and a nearly 10-foot representation of the artist herself. The float will also display the work of the contest’s five honorable mentions, including Simone Dixon, Kayla Gadie, Genesis Pope, Trinity Russell and Skylar Russell. The work was designed under the theme “Kids Can Change the World!”
“Getting a glimpse into how young people envision the future is a true kickoff to the holiday season, reflecting on what is and designing what could be,” said Angelique Power, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in a press release.
The Grand Marshals are two long-standing Detroit figures who have made a meaningful impact in media and sports.
Perkins is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who retired in 2022 after 33 years with Fox 2. He covered some of the most significant news stories of recent decades, including six presidential elections, the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as moderated the “Let It Rip” discussion forum. He also traveled the country with Nelson Mandela, followed the pope and covered nearly every major political convention.
“[He is] revered in the Detroit market,” Michaels said. “He was the go-to with Fox 2… just one of the finest people you will ever meet, and he is so excited.”
Brown was an NFL All-Pro offensive lineman recognized as one of the Detroit Lion’s greatest players and recently inducted into the team’s “Pride of Lions” Hall of Fame. He is a 2002 Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and currently an analyst for the Detroit Lions radio broadcast and ESPN. He is also active in charitable causes and is the founder of Lomas Brown Jr. Foundation which aims to help youth become better student athletes and well-rounded individuals.
“[He’s just] a fine human being and a Detroit icon,” Michaels said. “He’s Mr. Detroit.”
A million spectators are expected to attend the event live. It kicks off at 8:40 a.m., and Michaels recommends arriving early to get the best viewing spots, noting some people arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. He said there should be plenty of parking on either side of Woodward Avenue.
Michaels said the parade is a staple of region a magical moment to be experienced.
“Take it in and enjoy it,” he said, “and really be proud of Detroit and the people of Detroit and our state of Michigan.”
America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner White
Begins at 8:40 a.m. Thursday
Route marches south from Kirby to Congress streets along Woodward in Detroit.
Airs live at 10 a.m. on WDIV (Channel 4)