At 100 years, Philly hosts nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade has reached its 100th year. In a scene from the 2018 parade, pilgrims, a turkey, and Clifford the Big Red Dog make their way through Center City. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade has reached its 100th year. In a scene from the 2018 parade, pilgrims, a turkey, and Clifford the Big Red Dog make their way through Center City. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Updated: 1:55 p.m.

The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is celebrating its 100th year. Here’s a look back at photos of what began as a promotional event for Gimbels department store and became a cherished tradition.

Santa arrives at Gimbels at the culmination of Thanksgiving Day Parade. From 1920 to 1986, the parade began at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and ended at Gimbels department store at 8th and Market streets, where Santa climbed a Philadelphia fire truck ladder to the toy department.
(Photographer Unknown/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Firemen pull a wagon with children dressed as Indians and Pilgrims during the 1930 Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade grew to include balloons, floats and marching bands from around the country.
(Photographer Unknown/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Ferocious Tiger and the Organ Grinder and Monkey are among the giant balloons accompanying Santa Claus in the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1960. The first parades started at the Art Museum and ended at Gimbels department store at 8th and Market streets. (Charles T. Higgins/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Santa Claus waves to Philadelphians welcoming him to the city in the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1960, which delivered Santa to Gimbels department store. After Gimbels was sold in 1986 and ABC took over the parade, it reversed direction and delivered Santa to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
(Dominic Pasquarella/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Faces of children wear various expressions as they greet Santa Clause during the 1961 Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Joseph McGuinn/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Crowds jam Market Street to watch the 1961 Thanksgiving Day Parade. Here, pussycat and Piggy Wig with a ring proceed to Gimbels. (Joseph McGuinn/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Drummers march under giant balloons on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade, (Jack Tinney/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
A Mother Goose character waves to the crowd during the 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade. Early parades featured characters from storybooks and popular culture. After the Walt Disney Company acquired ABC in 1996, popular Disney characters joined the parade. (Jack Tinney/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
The 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade Queen Marybeth Falzone (center), 11, of Collingswood, N.J., is joined by her court of honor at the Municipal Services Building. Girls are (from left) Alice E. Hill, 10, of Frankford; Debra Davis, 11, of Mt. Airy; Miss Falzone; Cynthia Mitchell, 10, of Camden, and Dottie Lou King, 10, of Broomall. The queen and her court were selected from a pool of 9- to 13-year-old girls, each of whom submitted a 25-word essay on why she should be queen. (Owens/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA)
Youngsters bundled up against the season’s first chill weather get a close look at a character in Gimbel’s 55th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1974 as it passes along the Parkway in Philadelphia. (Don Camp/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.)
The Phillie Phanatic steals a kiss during the 1980 Thanksgiving Day Parade. The girls near the Phanatic are part of the Bishop Kenrick High School band. (Jon Falk/Philadelphia Evening Bulletin/Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.)
Santa and Mrs. Claus are seen enjoying the attention they get as they ride up the Parkway in the 2015 Thanksgiving Day Parade. Santa’s arrival has remained the highlight of the parade for 100 years. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY))
Anna and Elsa from Disney on Ice presents ‘Frozen’ are part of the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Parade. After the Walt Disney Company acquired ABC in 1996, many familiar Disney characters were added to the parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY))
Balloon handlers prepare for the start of the 2014 parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Officers with the Philadelphia Police Department made sure everything was safe along the parade route. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY))
This human-powered vehicle was also part of the 2014 parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Frosty the Snowman floats above the parade as it passes Suburban Station in 2014. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Children request each passing balloon to ‘spin it’ in front of them during the 2014 parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Miss America Outstanding Teen 2015, Olivia McMillan, Miss America 2015, Kira Kazantsev and other local state Misses made an appearance at the 2014 parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Daniel Tiger floats down Market Street during the 98th annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade, November 23, 2017. (Emily Cohen for WHYY)
Flyers mascot Gritty helps balloon handlers during the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in Center City Philadelphia. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)
Streamers fill the sky in front of the Art Museum steps as performers take part in the televised component of the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

High winds grounded large balloons during the 100th annual Thanksgiving Day parade, but it didn’t stop the crowds from enjoying the sights and sounds along the route.

Members of the Redmond family who traveled from Carollton, Georgia watch as bands and floats travel of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 100th Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.(Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Clown Sharon Pearson high fives spectators along the parkway. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Cousins from the Espesito and Piergallini families enjoy the floats and bands during the 100th Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their mothers Kathleen Espesito and Donna Piergallini have been coming to the parade for 30 years. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
The Morgantown West Virginia High School Marchin Band marches along John F Kennedy Blvd during the 100th Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
A transfixed Giada Wilson and her grandmother Delphine Wilson enjoy the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Delphine Wilson has been attending the parade for 40 years. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Volunteers who formed a balloon troop lead of the parade. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
The Coeur D’Alene, Idaho performing group Blazen Divaz perform along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Multiple performing groups combine to put on a dance routine in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the 100th Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.(Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

Sources for this story include The PhillyHistory Blog, 6ABC.com, and the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

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