Giving Thanks for the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
by Amulya Aluru
The screeching sounds of the alarm jolted me awake at six in the morning, disrupting a peaceful night of sleep after the first day of Thanksgiving break. I sluggishly got ready and stumbled out the front door, questioning my decision to attend the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. Most Americans associate Thanksgiving with turkey, no school or work, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This esteemed parade is broadcasted nationally every year, garnering millions of dedicated viewers and hopeful participants. Thus, when reading about the Chicago-based counterpart sponsored by McDonald’s online, I dreaded attending a three-hour attempt to replicate the seemingly unattainable glory of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fueled by Starbucks and the promise of donuts, I prepared myself for the possibility of boredom and frostbite.
The parade, expected to begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 11:00 a.m., stretched across State Street. The roads were desolate and seemed wider than usual on the drive into the city. As I neared the starting point of the parade, Congress and State Street, large groups of Chicagoans trudged past me in bulky coats and mittens. I was baffled… surely not all of these people voluntarily woke up at such an ungodly hour just to watch a parade?
By the time I found parking, which took around 20 minutes and cost $20, it was already 8:30 a.m. I rushed toward State Street, worried that I missed the start of the parade. My worries proved to be pointless, as police officers were still walking around the empty road, surrounded by shivering parade-goers waiting in anticipation. The website recommended the intersection of State and Adams Street for the best vantage point, and encouraged spectators to arrive between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM. However, viewers filed in at a constant rate throughout the entire duration of the parade. For those planning on attending the parade next year, I would suggest arriving around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., because the actual parade began a little before 9:00 a.m..
The weather was also surprisingly pleasant and stayed around forty degrees Fahrenheit. Still, the best advice is to dress in layers. Unwisely, I went in a light winter coat and sneakers, and I suffered the consequences. Two hours into the parade, I was bouncing on my toes and running in place to chase away the imminent frostbite. To keep warm, the majority of spectators also bought coffee and donuts from nearby shops.
Immediately after joining the crowd, I felt as if I was in a different world. Within the first five minutes there, a middle-aged lady came up to me with multiple bags of Skittles and offered to give me one. I looked at her strangely, and ignoring years of advice about rejecting food from strangers, eagerly grabbed one.
After walking for a couple blocks in the milling crowd, I happened upon an empty spot. My happiness was short-lived because the parade did not start for another twenty minutes. Eventually, the first float, advertising the sponsor of the parade, rolled across the empty road and elicited cheers from the audience.
Within a few minutes, I was confident in my decision to attend. One of the first floats was for the Chicago Blackhawks, and featured their mascot, Tommy Hawk, atop a large vehicle. He rivaled Northside’s pep rallies with the enormous T-shirt gun he waved around, and further entranced the crowd by shooting T-shirts to hopeful fans. Their initial excitement quickly faded as the same float remained in place for fifteen arduous minutes. The parade stopped like this multiple times, causing some viewers to leave in exasperation.
Regardless, the dancers, acrobatics groups, and marching bands that performed provided worthwhile entertainment. Furthermore, the unique experience of attending the parade in person, rather than watching it on the television, solidified the camaraderie I felt with fellow Chicagoans as we commiserated in the cold, admired the talent of the performers, and wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving.
In the end, I was glad I attended the parade in person, rather than sitting at home and watching it on television with the rest of my family. For those who despise waking up early in the morning, watching the first part of the parade on television and then leisurely strolling to State Street to watch the end is the best option. The holidays are much more fun together, so go downtown next Thanksgiving, or even in the upcoming weeks, to celebrate as a city.