The banging of drumsticks on drums filled the crisp morning air as thousands flocked toward the Loop early Thursday to enjoy the 89th annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
Kathy Wells and Thomas English, who have been together for 10 years, waited near the parade’s start at State Street and Ida B. Wells Drive. They were most looking forward to the giant balloons.
The parade, which followed a route from Ida B. Wells Drive until Randolph Street on State Street, saw the return of the beloved giant balloons, including Teddy the Turkey, Kermit the Frog, Rudolph the Reindeer and Peppa Pig.
The balloons hadn’t been a part of the parade since 2018 for financial reasons. A shortage of helium was, in part, what made it too costly to have the inflatables, said Dan Mulka, executive director of the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade Foundation.
The parade also featured marching bands, staged live event performances, equestrians and more.
Paradegoers cheered on as members of the Jesse White Tumbling Team jumped onto mini trampolines and did flips in the air.
Many nodded their heads to tunes blaring from the marching bands, including “Feliz Navidad” and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ 2011 hit “Can’t Hold Us” featuring Ray Dalton.
Some spectators posed for pictures with parade floats and members of the bands acting as their backdrops.
Jonathan Beverly made the trip from western Nebraska for his first parade after his son got a job as a hotel manager.
“It’s very vibrant, surprisingly welcome,” Beverly, 59, said of his impression of Chicago.
Jacqueline S., 39, and her family came to Chicago last night from Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the parade. They arrived late last year and Jacqueline was looking forward to seeing the “joy in her daughter’s face when she gets to see different things.”
When asked how much it meant to Jacqueline to share the parade with her 3-year-old daughter, she said it was “very meaningful, especially when it’s at no cost to individuals to participate.”
Maria M., her husband and two kids made the trip from Hoffman Estates.
“One of the awesome things about living near Chicago is that we get an actual, awesome parade to see,” Maria said.
Camila, her 8-year-old daughter, said she was looking forward to having fun with her family.
The street near where the parade starting point had grown quieter as the stomach-rattling sounds of the last band echoed in the distance.
A float carrying Santa Claus — with jingle bells rattling from his waving hand and Mrs. Claus walking beside his float — blared “Here Comes Santa Claus“ as the parade began to come to a close.
The parade, originally called the Christmas Caravan, was created in 1934 to help lift the spirits of residents going through the Great Depression, according to a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade official website.
“What once started as an attempt to boost Chicago’s economy, has evolved into a cherished holiday tradition for Americans across the country,” a press release said.