America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a plateful of fun

Santa compressed

Before the turkey and stuffing. Before the potatoes and gravy. Before the cranberry sauce and before the pumpkin pie, one Detroit Thanksgiving Day tradition awaits you … America’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Distinguished Clown Corps

Distinguished Clown Corps

Jim Leyland, the third winningest managers in Detroit Tigers franchise history, is the Grand Marshal this year. He’ll lead off the three-mile, two-hour parade on a new route beginning at 8:45 am. This year the parade steps off at Woodward Avenue and Kirby, adjacent to the Detroit Institute of Arts, and ends at Congress just south of Campus Martius Park.  Click here for the route.

If you’re watching on TV you’ll see the floats, bands, clowns and Santa pass by some Detroit’s most notable landmarks including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Orchestra Hall, Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre and Campus Martius Park.

Strategic Staffing Solutions float

Strategic Staffing Solutions float

Themed “Downtown Our Town,” the parade will be featured on WDIV-TV Local 4, including a one-hour national broadcast from 9-10 a.m. reaching more than 140 major cities across the country. News/Talk 760 WJR will also broadcast live from the parade route. The parade will be broadcast LIVE on WDIV Local 4 from 9-10 a.m. and on WJR 760 AM.

Detroit’s America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is no small potatoes. It has been recognized as one of the best Thanksgiving parades in the country by U.S. News & World Report Travel and is second in size only to Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York. Presented by Art Van Furniture and produced by The Parade Company, it is one of the country’s oldest and most celebrated parades.

DTE float

DTE float

This year’s parade will also feature a record-breaking nine new floats.

  • (You First) from FirstMerit
  • Art Van Wonderland from Art Van Furniture
  • Detroit Jazz Festival from the Detroit Jazz Festival
  • Disco Dogs and Cats from Strategic Staffing Solutions
  • Driving a Brighter Future from Ford Motor Company
  • Fa-La-La –Lidays from Radio Disney
  • Know Your Own Power from DTE Energy
  • Michigan Farms on City Streets from the Skillman Foundation
  • Path of Confidence from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan float

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan float

In addition, Naomi Cook, an eighth-grader at the Henry Ford Academy School for Creative Studies, will see a float she designed in the parade. The  Parade Company constructed the “Michigan Farms on City Streets,” a float that features children shopping for gigantic stalks of corn, super-sized sunflowers and other overgrown fruits and vegetables sprouting from a pink and purple truck. Naomi won the 22nd annual Skillman Foundation s drawing into a parade float.  “I wanted to have something that’s actually going on in the city,” Cook told the Detroit Free Press. “Instead of going to the store, people can just walk outside their house and buy some food.”

PNC Bank float

PNC Bank float

Also look for floats you might have seen before:

  • The Distinguished Clown Corps. from Ernst & Young
  • Detroit Rocks from CBS Radio – WOMC
  • Education Fuels Tomorrow’s Innovators from General Motors Foundation
  • Five Little Monkeys from the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center
  • Grow Up Great from PNC Bank
  • Half Pipe from Conway MacKenzie
  • Jake & Ellie’s Wagon from DMC’s Children’s Hospital
  • Little League from the National Coney Island
    Compuware Float

    Compuware Float

  • Performance Workshop from Compuware
  • Santa’s Workshop from the Pepsi Beverage Company
  • Three Pigs from FLAME
  • Turkey Trot from Fifth Third Bank
  • What If? from Quicken Loans
  • Wizard of Oz from WDIV Local 4

The Big Head Corps return again this year as well. Members of the team will march down the Woodward wearing The Parade Company’s world renowned mâché head collection. These colorful artifacts were originally acquired from artists in Viareggio, Italy, with some dating back to the 1940s.  The collection of nearly 300 heads was restored by the artists at The Parade Company who were trained by artisans from Viareggio. These cherished parade characters can be seen throughout the year on display in the studio and along the parade route.

GM Foundation float

GM Foundation float

This is the sixth year the team marches down Woodward Avenue. If you are interested in more information about the Corps and have an interest in joining, please contact Valerie Richards at or (313) 923-7403.

There will be plenty of celebrities on hand as well.

  • Garrett Clayton-Actor, singer & dancer. Her career has included roles in the hit Disney Channel Original Movie “Teen Beach Movie,” Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up,” and more – a Michigan native riding on the Radio Disney “Fa-la-la-lidays” float
  • Kenichi Ebina-Japanese performing artist, the winner of America’s Got Talent (Season 8)
  • Melissa Fleis-Project Runway Designer (Season 10) – a Michigan native
  • Elizabeth Iverzaj – Miss Michigan 2014
  • Douglas Keane – Winner of Top Chef Masters (Season 5) – a Michigan native
  • Sarah Lenore – Semi-finalist of America’s Got Talent (Season 3), who recently signed by Cash Money as pop/country artist
  • Angel Mills – Miss Black Michigan USA 2014, a senior at Howard University studying broadcast & journalism
  • Sixto Rodriguez – American folk musician based in Detroit. The revival of his musical career is documented in the Academy Award winning documentary film “Searching for Sugarman.”
  • Ruben Studdard – Pop singer & winner of American Idol (Season 2), who has released five albums and is a participant in the current season of The Biggest Loser (Season 15)
  • Haley Williams – Miss Michigan America 2013
  • Allee Willis-Songwriter recognized for many great hits including Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” – a Detroit native
DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan float

DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan float

As always Santa’s sleigh pulled by the reindeer is at the end of the parade. When he finally accepts the key to the city “and the hearts of good children everywhere” it’s time to go back and baste the turkey … and get ready for the Lions game.

For those of you who just can’t get enough of the parade check out “A Day in Paradeland,” on Saturday, November 30 at The Parade Company. You’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the floats featured in the 87th America’s Thanksgiving Parade®.  There’ll be entertainment by AM 910 Radio Disney, a photo with Santa station, face painting, free arts and crafts and more!  Food will be available for purchase. The event runs from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Tickets are $6.00 at the door. The Parade Company is located at 9500 Mt. Elliott, Studio A in Detroit. Click here for directions.

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