Forward, March: America’s Holiday Parades

By Nicky M. | Arcadia Staff
For many communities in the US, a true celebration includes a town parade. Whether for the winter holidays, Memorial Day, or even a parade of babies, it seems like almost any occasion is cause for a downtown processional. Today, we’re celebrating parades large and small with some of our favorite vintage parade photos.

In this photo, the community of Huntington Beach celebrates 1906’s May Day with a parade towards the ocean.
Holiday parades have a long history in the US, and many towns have parades stretching back centuries. Parades have afforded communities a chance to come together in celebration, whether it be for a national holiday or smaller town affair. In this photo, the community of Huntington Beach celebrates 1906’s May Day with a parade towards the ocean.
 
In this photo, a group of young schoolgirls from Larchmont, California, act in the roles of Santa and his troop of reindeer.While smaller community parades are not uncommon, many American towns have used the holiday season as a cause for celebration. These parades are unique to their town, often featuring community traditions like the scene here. In this photo, a group of young schoolgirls from Larchmont, California, act in the roles of Santa and his troop of reindeer.
This photo from the 1950 parade also featured the parade’s largest float at 160 feet long.In larger cities, parades have been known to command large crowds, and feature elaborate floats. Many of these large parades have their roots in a smaller community celebration, but have grown over time. The State Street holiday parade in Chicago is one of these larger parades, and has been conducted every year for nearly a century. This photo from the 1950 parade also featured the parade’s largest float at 160 feet long.
In Cedar Rapids, the holiday season hasn’t truly arrived until the annual holiday parade, which started in 1983.For some towns, a parade is considered the main event of festivities, rather than just the start. In Cedar Rapids, the holiday season hasn’t truly arrived until the annual holiday parade, which started in 1983. The parade is preceded by a whole day of winter-related activities across the city before the big event in late November or early December.
Held since 1924, the Detroit Thanksgiving parade features several marching bands, led by bandleaders like this one here from 1960.While some holiday parades are held throughout December, many towns begin their holiday celebrations with a parade on Thanksgiving Day. These Thanksgiving Day parades are often very elaborate, like the Thanksgiving parade in Detroit. Held since 1924, the Detroit Thanksgiving parade features several marching bands, led by bandleaders like this one here from 1960. 
This photo from 1999 shows the new Blue balloon from the children’s TV show Blue’s Clues.Perhaps the most well-known of holiday parades is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is televised nationally each year. The parade is known for its unique balloons, often as large as the buildings they float past. This photo from 1999 shows the new Blue balloon from the children’s TV show Blue’s Clues. The 1999 parade also premiered the Honey Nut Cheerios bee, and a millennium Snoopy.
This advertisement, featuring Santa, was for the 1987 rendition of the parade.Some parades are so highly anticipated that they’ll be advertised for far in advance. The Granada Hills Holiday Parade has been organized each year since 1984, but had existed previously as the “Youth in Action” parade. This advertisement, featuring Santa, was for the 1987 rendition of the parade. 
During the holiday parade in Royal Oak, Michigan, unicyclists fill the streets and perform tricks for onlookers.Aside from the standard marching band and floats, some towns have gone the extra mile to bring unique entertainment into their parades. During the holiday parade in Royal Oak, Michigan, unicyclists fill the streets and perform tricks for onlookers. The town is known for its holiday parade in the fall, and its Memorial Day parade during late spring.
This photo, from the parade’s first year in 1909, shows the humble beginnings of what has become a nationally recognized event.While the holidays are a typical cause for celebration and town parades, many communities have developed more singular parades over time. In Ocean City, New Jersey, one of the most exciting yearly events is the Baby Parade, with dozens of children processing down the city’s boardwalk. This photo, from the parade’s first year in 1909, shows the humble beginnings of what has become a nationally recognized event. 
Here, the largest community parade in Chicago begins their holiday parade with a local high school band in 1999.
Above all, parades have brought a sense of community to towns, letting neighbors and strangers alike come together for a celebration. Whether for the holidays, or just for fun, a parade is a sure way to keep a town’s spirits high. Here, the largest community parade in Chicago begins their holiday parade with a local high school band in 1999.