Thanksgiving 2020: pies, parades, presidential pardons and the history behind the day
When is Thanksgiving this year, and will the 2020 Macy's Parade be able to go ahead?
Thanksgiving Day is one of the biggest events in the American calendar but the most exposure Britain gets to the holiday is by watching US television series' Thanksgiving-themed episodes.
How did the day become so important? Why does the president pardon a turkey, and what on earth is 'ambrosia'? Here is everything you need to know.
When is Thanksgiving 2020?
Thanksgiving always takes place on the fourth Thursday in November – the day before Black Friday. This year, the American celebration falls on Thursday November 26.
It traditionally kicks off the 'holiday season' in the United States and the day was set in stone by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, with it later being approved by Congress in 1941. FDR changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (because there are sometimes five Thursdays in the month).
While Britons think of it as a warm-up for the Yuletide period, many Americans think it of it as just as important as Christmas.
In fact, more people in the US celebrate Thanksgiving than they do Christmas. Thanksgiving Day is a secular holiday in a country that officially separates church and state so this probably makes sense.
However while the US Thanksgiving is the most well-known, it isn't the original: it was first celebrated by the arctic explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578 in Canada– more than 40 years before the Pilgrim fathers arrived in the New World. Canadians now celebrate a separate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.
The history of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the religious refugees from England known popularly as the Pilgrims invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season.
The previous year's harvests had failed and in the winter of 1620, half of the pilgrims had starved to death. Luckily for the rest, members of the local Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters) catch fish, and collect seafood.
There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving, but it's clear that turkey was not on the menu. The three-day feast included goose, lobster, cod and deer.
'The National Thanksgiving Proclamation' was the first formal proclamation of Thanksgiving in America. George Washington, the first president of the United States, made this proclamation on Oct 3, 1789.
Then in 1846, author Sarah Josepha Hale waged a one-woman campaign for Thanksgiving to be recognised as a truly national holiday.
In the US the day had previously been celebrated only in New England and was largely unknown in the American South. All the other states scheduled their own Thanksgiving holidays at different times, some as early as October and others as late as January.
Hale's advocacy for the national holiday lasted 17 years and four presidencies before the letter she wrote to Lincoln was successful. In 1863 at the height of the Civil War he supported legislation which established a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
Lincoln perhaps wanted the date to tie in with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on Nov 21, 1620. Although we now use the Gregorian calendar. In 1621 the date would have been Nov 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar.
So Hale finally got her wish. She is perhaps now better known, though, for writing the nursery rhyme 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
In 1939, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week to try and give a boost to retailers before Christmas during the Great Depression.
Several states followed FDR’s lead but 16 states refused the holiday shift, leaving the country with rival Thanksgivings. FDR changed his mind after coming under pressure from Congress and in 1941, the a resolution was passed returning the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November.
Atlantic City mayor Thomas D. Taggart later described the Thanksgiving holiday from 1939–1941 as "Franksgiving".
Turkey, pies and stuffing
There are several potential reasons Americans eat turkey on the big day: one claims that the pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote a letter about that now-famous meal in 1621 which mentioned a turkey hunt before the dinner.
Another theory says the choice of turkey was inspired by Queen Elizabeth I who was eating dinner when she heard that Spanish ships had sunk on their way to attack England. She was so thrilled with the news she ordered another goose be served. Some claim early US settlers roasted turkeys as they were inspired by her actions.
Others say that as wild turkeys are native to North America, they were a natural choice for early settlers.
When European settlers encountered turkeys for the first time in the early 1500s, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl. Since this group of birds were thought to come from Turkey, the North American bird was dubbed 'turkey fowl'.
This later became shortened to 'turkey' and entered the vernacular. The English navigator William Strickland, who introduced the turkey into England in 1550, was granted a coat of arms which included a "turkey-cock in his pride proper".
So what comprises the classic Thanksgiving dish?
Turkey: and/or ham, goose and duck or turduken (a spatchcocked combo of three whole birds!)
Stuffing (also known as dressing): a mix of bread cubes, chopped celery, carrots, onions and sage stuffed inside the turkey for roasting. Chestnuts, chopped bacon or sausage, and raisins or apples are also sometimes included in the stuffing.
Pies: pumpkin pies are most common, but pecan, apple, sweet potato and mincemeat pies are also quite popular.
Thanksgiving recipe inspiration
From pumpkin pie to mac and cheese, Americans go all out for Thanksgiving. Here are our favourite recipes:
Delicious sweet pastry combined with the popular autumn squash. Share America's love for pumpkin pie with this traditional, simple recipe.
This light and fluffy cornbread, coated in melted butter and honey, is a classic Thanksgiving Day dish.
Individual cornbread buns spiced with paprika and fresh chilli – delicious eaten warm with butter and bacon.
A crisp, golden-brown turkey is often the centrepiece of a typical Thanksgiving dinner and this traditional recipe is perfect for those wanting to serve up the staple dish as part of their own feast.
A glorious side dish that you can bung in the oven and forget about. The carrots emerge burnished and lightly spiced.
These balls of mince pork, apple and toasted hazelnuts, gently fried in a little goose fat, are a perfect accompaniment to the roast turkey.
Diana Henry's simple recipe for macaroni and cheese requires no sauce-cooking or pasta-boiling, helping you to serve the American favourite in minimal time.
Treat yourself to a sweet US-inspired breakfast on Thanksgiving Day, using this salted caramel pancake recipe.
Individual gluten-free pecan pies made with dates instead of refined sugar.
The Presidential reprieve
Eating turkey is actually more associated with Thanksgiving than it is Christmas in the States with over 50 million turkeys served up every year in the US.
Every year, though, the POTUS ‘pardons’ at least one turkey, sparing them from the oven. In 2018, rumours circulated that that President Trump had reversed President Obama's turkey pardons - however online outrage soon gave way as it emerged this actually was 'fake news'.
The public presentation of two prize turkeys to the commander-in-chief in the lead-up to Thanksgiving had been a time-honoured photo op since the 1940s.
But on Nov 17, 1989 – 200 years after George Washington's proclamation (see above) – President George H.W. Bush formalised the tradition when he pardoned a 50lb turkey in the White House Rose Garden.
“Let me assure you," Bush said to the 30 schoolchildren present, "this fine turkey will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy. He’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”
The presidential turkey pardon has remained an annual Thanksgiving ritual ever since.
How is football integral to the Thanksgiving holiday?
Like soccer on Boxing Day in the UK, football (the American version) plays a major role in Thanksgiving.
The University of Detroit Stadium hosted the first Thanksgiving Day football game in 1934, pitting the Detroit Lions against the Chicago Bears.
The game was the brainchild of G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Detroit Lions. He was keen to promote the new franchise in a baseball-mad city, so he approached NBC to get them to broadcast the game across their national radio network. They agreed and the game became the first ever network broadcast event.
The game was such a hit it became a tradition in the US and football is now an integral part of the day.
Detroit has played a game every year since, breaking only for World War Two. The Dallas Cowboys, too, have played every year on Thanksgiving since 1966, only missing two years in 1975 and 1977.
The annual Macy's parade
Another Thanksgiving tradition is the Macy's parade in New York City – an annual pageant of floats, cheerleaders, marching bands and gigantic balloons.
The parade dates back to the 1920s when many of the immigrant workers at Macy's department store were keen to celebrate the American holiday with the sort of festival their parents had thrown in Europe. It originally started from 145th Street in Harlem and ended at Herald Square, making a 6-mile (9.7 km) route.
The newest route was introduced with the 2012 parade. This change eliminated Times Square and rerouted the parade down Sixth Avenue, a move that was protested by the Times Square BID, Broadway theatre owners and other groups.
Each year, New York City officials preview the parade route and try to move as many potential obstacles out of the way, including traffic signals.
This year, however, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be held virtually due to the Covid-19 restrictions that are currently in place.
Instead of following its usual route through New York City, the parade's classic floats, balloons and street performers will be showcased to the US on NBC as part of a TV special.
In line with the Covid-19 guidelines, the 2020 parade will have fewer participants and everyone involved will be required to wear a face covering, while keeping socially distanced.
There's a Thanksgiving in the UK?
The UK has an equivalent to Thanksgiving, although it's a lot less of a big deal: Harvest Day. While we usually take a few non-perishables down to our local church and enter our autumn vegetables in competitions, Thanksgiving in North America is a much more plentiful and extravagant affair.
Yet it is still celebrated over on this side of the pond, with some restaurants and hospitality venues in London holding events. According to the 2011 census, there were 177,185 Americans living in England and Wales so it’s becoming increasingly fashionable for restaurants and pop-ups to host meals, events and celebrations. Unfortunately, some of this year's larger celebrations may not be possible due the rule of six and ban on mass gatherings.
However, American expat Sally Peck argued on our website last year that her favorite (sic) holiday would never work in the UK, saying that Brits don't really get it.
Thanksgiving Day Parade - HISTORY
In November 1920, a couple of dozen Ford Model Ts rolled through Philadelphia, one containing Santa Claus, who made his way to Gimbels, then went eight stories up to its toy department.
It was the city’s inaugural Thanksgiving Day parade, and it drew barely as many onlookers as marchers (55). The parade is thought to be the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, established four years before its New York/Macy’s counterpart.
In the intervening century, the parade has grown rather more popular — one million people turn up on a good autumn day.
As the centennial of what is now known as the 6ABC Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade approaches (yes, the math adds up, even though it’s 2019), we thought we’d take a look through the archives to see how the celebration has evolved over the years.
In the early days, most information about the parade appears in advertisements — it took time for Gimbels president Ellis Gimbel to build momentum for the event, which he always viewed as a way to draw attention to the Christmas shopping season.
Hence the gimmick, part of the parade since its inception, of having Santa lifted by ladder to the upper floors of the department store (at Ninth and Market), where he climbed through the window to the store’s Toyland section. Gimbel designed the parade to please children, and always invited orphans to share the stage with him — as many as 4,000 in later years.
There are intriguing references to a Roaring Twenties mishap: During one of those early years, Santa apparently lost his footing on the way up and had a close call. By the 1930s, he was followed up the ladder by a radio personality named Uncle Wip (on loan from WIP) to provide backup.
By then the Depression had taken hold, and also Prohibition, though reporters who covered the parade appeared, somehow, to have gotten a snootful. Here’s an Inquirer scribe letting readers know that Santa always found children to be nice rather than naughty: “The plump Gentleman in Cerise, much to the exasperated opinion of the Philadelphia Police, found everybody good and toy deserving.”
The mood at the parade, he wrote, ran counter to the era’s brother-can-you-spare-a-dime paradigm: “Every inch of it seemed to defy the hard time ghouls of gloom.”
In 1934, Kate Smith came to perform, and the parade was littered with “many Mae West impersonators” mixed in among the throng of 2,000 marchers, 94 floats, and 40 marching bands.
A few years later, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was a guest of honor. At age 61, he was to ride in a car from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Gimbels, but at the urging of the crowd, he jumped out of the vehicle and tap-danced the entire way.
By 1939 the parade had become so popular — half a million attendees — that lost children had become a recurring problem. “The parade gave police their annual headache — lost children. Eleven youngsters between the ages of 3 to 11 were turned over to police between 9 a.m. and noon.” (All were retrieved by 9 that evening.)
World War II rationing had its effect. In the early 1940s, a civilian gasoline ban meant that all floats were horse-drawn, and reports say “nearly all of the marchers were women.” The parade in wartime grew patriotic. The Statue of Liberty and Winged Victory became a fixture, and iconic Borden Dairy mascot Elsie the Cow anchored a float whose riders made a pitch for war bonds.
In those early decades, the parade’s floats and marchers were modeled heavily on storybook characters. Mickey Mouse and Bambi might show up, but for the most part the parade featured folktale figures like Peter the Pumpkin Eater. Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan. Jack the Giant Killer, Ali Baba, and Humpty Dumpty. Something called “The Pinhead Man from Pinsylvania” once appeared.
Postwar, the parade upped the ante on spectacle, and by 1950 the main attraction was a “green-eyed yellow dragon, a monster that measured 60 feet from the tip of his smoking snout to the last of his 13 lashing tails. He was an altogether terrifying sort of dragon.”
Terror, in the Eisenhower era, had a more innocent connotation. In 1957, police arrested a teen “with a loaded gun in his pocket.” The officer had been alerted by “complaints of drum majorettes that somebody was firing pellets at them.” Police spotted the scoundrel, who “tried to conceal the gun when they approached.”
Pellets might have done serious damage to the gigantic tethered balloons that have long been a parade highlight, usually drawing from TV and movies — Popeye and Olive Oyl, Felix the Cat, Lamb Chop, Underdog, Mighty Mouse, Fred Flintstone.
Verily, there is no sure thing on Thanksgiving Day. The parade was canceled once in 1971 due to bad weather (though marchers took a few turns around the Art Museum for the benefit of television crews). There have been periodic attempts to eliminate balloons as a feature, because they are difficult to wrangle. Even motorized floats have been forced to withdraw. During the 1970s, the Alice Cooper float “suffered damage and was removed.”
The parade outlasted Ellis Gimbel (he died in 1950), and Gimbels itself folded in 1986. Still, though the routes and rituals and sponsors have changed, the parade has remained popular with Philadelphians. Perhaps more popular with fans than with invited celebrities — no-shows pop up here and there. Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson demurred in the 1950s (plane fogged in, he said), and in the 1970s, Jeffersons star and South Philadelphia native Sherman Hemsley called in sick.
Some years, we seemed to be hard up for marquee names — people once stood in the rain to watch Richard Sanders, who played Les Nessman in WKRP in Cincinnati.
On the other hand, the parade snagged Liberace, Joey Bishop, David Brenner, the Harlem Globetrotters, Mario Andretti, Joe Frazier. Nell Carter and Kool and the Gang joined the party. Bernie Parent, Hank Aaron in 1976, Mike Schmidt in 1980. This year, for the 100th edition, Il Divo, Macy Gray, and Kathy Sledge are scheduled to attend.
And while we don’t have a green-eyed yellow dragon spanning 60 feet with 13 writhing tails, we have this:
A historical marker commemorating 100 years of the Thanksgiving Day parade, mounted atop a 10-foot pole, was installed Nov. 26 at the western edge of the Oval, at the crosswalk nearest to Ericsson Fountain, 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
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The parade has always including marching bands as attractions, but the number of participants has consistently grown. This year, 12 bands will march in the parade, including the Macys Great American Marching Band with 250 members representing all 50 states.
One of the characters from Mighty Mouse in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, in Times Square.
A sweet-themedfloat passes by during the parade.
Let it go
So long, Felix. This is a photo of one of the first balloons used in the Macy’s Parade flying away before popping.
It wasn’t an accident. After taking Felix on his parade route, the people at Macy’s didn’t have a plan for what to do with the balloon next. So they just let it go into the air. Let some other chump deal with it!
Need a hot tip in the Thanksgiving dinner department? Check out our recipe: "Making a Green Bean Casserole That Doesn’t Look Like a Pile of Puke".
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Through the Years
Part of the cultural landscape since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become as synonymous with the holiday as turkey and stuffing. Click through to see how the parade and iconic balloons have evolved over the years, along with some fun facts that will make your viewing experience that much more fun.
This piece was originally published in 2018 it has been updated with new information.
1924: The “Macy’s Christmas Parade” (it wouldn't become the "Thanksgiving Day Parade" until 1927) makes its debut, complete with marching animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.
1933: Over the next few years, the parade began to slowly morph into the spectacular we know today: Santa Claus appearing on a float, helium balloons replacing circus animals (the first character balloon? Felix the Cat in 1927, and more.
1934: The parade's first Mickey Mouse balloon, designed with the help of Walt Disney, takes to the streets of Manhattan. Three more Mickeys would appear throughout the coming years: 1977, 2000, and 2009—each version an evolution of the previous.
1941: Santa Claus (in some form or another) has been a part of the parade from the very beginning, though his appearances have not always been the most graceful: In 1941, the giant Santa balloon lost helium, his legs buckled, and he popped a squat right in the middle of the street.
1957: Popeye makes his debut during rainy weather—bad news for parade viewers, and even worse news for character balloons. During the parade, the top of Popeye's hat filled with rainwater, causing him to swerve into the crowd and dump cold water all over the spectators.
1958: Due to a national helium shortage in 1958, the balloons were filled with regular air and hung from construction cranes.
1966: Superman first appeared in the parade in 1936, therein launching a lifetime of "It's a bird! It's a plane!" jokes. The superhero appeared again in 1966 and 1980.
1968: Snoopy has appeared eight times throughout the parade's history—more than any other character—making his debut here in 1968.
1970: Ever since 1968, the parade's massive floats have been designed by Macy's artists in New Jersey. Although the structures can reach up to 40 feet tall and 28 feet wide, each float must fold into itself to a size of 8.5 feet wide, in order to travel to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel.
1980: The massive character balloons are also built in New Jersey, where designers have been experimenting with materials over time. Cotton fabric was originally used, then neoprene (similar to a tire's inner tube). Each portion of any given balloon is designed as a separate chamber—in other words, if Underdog pierces his nose, the rest of his body will remain filled with helium.
1995: Bart Simpson is shown here cruising along Central Park in 1995, although the skateboarding balloon has not always had the smoothest ride. During an abnormally windy Thanksgiving Day in 1993, Bart ran into a tree and had his T-shirt completely ripped open.
2002: Kermit the Frog debuted in 1977, appearing again in 2002.
2016: Charlie Brown marched the parade for several years in the early 2000s, always in a running stance chasing after his elusive football. The Peanuts character made his comeback in 2016, this time with a smile and a kite.
2017: A team of volunteers wrangle the red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger along the parade route.
2018: Three elves from Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles prepare for their 2018 parade debut.
This year’s Parade appearance will be Snoopy’s 40th flight—the most of any balloon. His very first balloon was the 1968 aviator, and a year later he was reworked as an Apollo astronaut.
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Photos: Old photos of Philly’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s parade in New York often gets all the attention and credit on Thanksgiving Day, but not many people realize that the very first Thanksgiving Day parade took place in Philadelphia in 1920.
Led by Ellis Gimbel, a co-founder of Gimbels Department Store, the first parade consisted of just 50 dressed up employees who traveled from the Philadelphia Museum of Art down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, ultimately ending at Gimbels at Eighth and Market streets.
As the parade’s popularity grew over the years, Gimbels brought in some pretty epic floats, marching bands, and more, leading other stores to follow in their footsteps throughout the country. Macy’s in New York hosted their first parade four years later 1924.
The Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade almost didn’t happen in 1986, when the department store was bought by Sterns. Fortunately, ABC decided to take over and remains the main sponsor to this day. That year was also the first time the parade reversed its route. Now, the route starts at 20th and JFK Boulevard and ends at the art museum.
In honor of the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, take a look at some of the floats that have made their way up and down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, starting in 1954.
Children at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) had the chance to preview the “huge balloons” ahead of the 1954 parade.
A “giant leopard” float travels down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1964 parade.
A wild-cat balloon sits in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before the start of the 1964 parade.
The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin’s caption for this 1966 photo read, “Balaam and his donkey appear in the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
Hippo and ape balloons float above the Linda's Lassies Twirling Corp during the 1968 parade. Images courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center. Temple University Libraries. Philadelphia, PA
Bicyclists with “The Wheelman,” an organization that still exists to this day, ride in the 1968 parade.
Members of the Police Athletic League and bugle corps color guard march down the Parkway in the 1969 parade.
A “Monster” greets children along the parade route during the 55th Gimbel’s parade in 1974.
During the Gimbels parade in 1975, this float celebrated the Navy’s 200th birthday.
Like today, crowds of Philadelphians lined the streets along the Parkway to watch the floats go by. Here are parade-goers at 21st and Parkway during the 1976 parade.
"The Clown" floats past the point of origin for the 1977 parade, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia
The Phillies Fanatic steals a kiss from a member of the Bishop Kenrick High School Band during the 1980 parade.
Tom Cat plane crash, 1932
Annette Gipson, a 22-year-old student pilot from Brooklyn, was soaring in a small plane with her instructor over Queens when she saw it — a strange yellow blob in the sky.
A 60-foot-tall striped Tom Cat balloon had been released less than an hour earlier from the parade on 34th Street in Manhattan as part of a publicity stunt.
Gibson, who knew Macy’s was offering a $100 reward for the return of the balloon, flew closer to try to wrangle it. Suddenly, the inflatable cat’s fabric became tangled around the aircraft’s left wing.
“The plane went into a deep tail spin,” Robert Grippo, author of the book “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” said. “She turned the engine off so it wouldn’t catch on fire.”
Onlookers gasped as the plane plunged came within 250 feet of rooftops. Gibson’s instructor, Hugh Copeland, took the controls and landed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.
“After that, Macy’s stopped offering rewards for the balloons,” Valerie Paley of the New-York Historical Society said. “It had been a big promotional gimmick, but they decided it was too dangerous.”
2. The parade originally ended with the unveiling of Macy's Christmas window displays.
The parade began at 145th Street and Convent Avenue and continued down to Macy’s huge store on 34th Street. All along the route, according to the Times, the parade “was welcomed by such crowds that a large force of policemen had its hands full maintaining the police lines.” Some 10,000 people watched Santa—who rode on a float designed to look like a sled being pulled by reindeer—be crowned “King of the Kiddies,” then enjoyed the unveiling of the store’s Christmas windows. The parade was such a success that Macy’s decided to make it an annual event it would become the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927.
Houston's Thanksgiving Parade in its early days
1 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
2 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
4 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
5 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
7 of 50 Siamese cat balloon at the 1968 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Jim Coker / Houston Chronicle Jim Coker/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
8 of 50 Cowboy clowns at the 1970 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Othell O. Owensby Jr. / Houston Chronicle Othell O. Owensby Jr./Chronicle File Show More Show Less
10 of 50 Pig balloon during the 1971 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tom Colburn / Houston Chronicle Tom Colburn/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
11 of 50 Jack Crummett as Jocko the Clown and his sons in the 1967 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Houston. His sons, also in clown makeup, are Christopher, in the wagon John Charles, middle and Jack II, in front. Larry Evans/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
13 of 50 Jack Crummett, adult, left, was Jocko the Clown in this 1966 photo from the Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Houston. His sons, also in make-up, are shown with him: Christopher, in the wagon Charles, middle and Jack II, in front (to the right). These three sons favor their father with and without make-up, writes Angela Crummett. Photo courtesy Angela Crummett. HOUCHRON CAPTION (06/19/2005) SECSTAR: Jack Crummett was Jocko the Clown in this 1966 photo from the Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Houston. His sons, also in clown makeup, are Christopher, in the wagon John Charles, middle and Jack II, in front. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
14 of 50 A scene from the Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1956. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
16 of 50 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1958 Chronicle File Show More Show Less
17 of 50 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1956 Chronicle File Show More Show Less
19 of 50 It's the high point of the parade Santa Claus addresses parade goers atop a Foley's canopy following the 1960 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chuck Farmer / Houston Post Chuck Farmer/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
20 of 50 Circus train carries cheering passengers down Main Street during the 1964 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Post file Chronicle File Show More Show Less
22 of 50 Tom Turkey leads the procession during the 1962 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Dell Van Dusen / Houston Post Dell Van Dusen/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
23 of 50 Martian on Mars balloon durng the 1967 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Larry Evans : Chronicle file Larry Evans/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
25 of 50 A 35-foot-long balloon steer moves down Texas Avenue during the 1964 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Larry Evans / Houston Chronicle Larry Evans/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
26 of 50 Sphinx balloon during the 1963 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gilles Swinkels / Houston Chronicle Gilles Swinkels/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
28 of 50 Doug Soons, 11, in the foreground, looks as if he could have thought of a better way to spend the day as he leans against a float just before the start of the 1980 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Doug, a member of Boy Scout Troop 1332 of Spring, was one of several scouts assigned to help control the float, depicting a racing car. John Everett / Houston Chronicle John Everett/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
29 of 50 A hippo makes his way down Texas Avenue during the 1974 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Larry Evans / Houston Chronicle Larry Evans/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
31 of 50 Float during the 1973 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tom Colburn / Houston Chronicle Tom Colburn/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
32 of 50 Clowning around at the 1965 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. David Nance / Houston Chronicle David Nance/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
34 of 50 Penguin and pals at the 1952 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
35 of 50 Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk" makes an appearance at the 1956 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
37 of 50 A dragon makes his way through downtown at the 1956 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
38 of 50 Scene from the 1980 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. John Everett / Houston Chronicle John Everett/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
40 of 50 Scene from the 1956 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chronicle File Show More Show Less
41 of 50 Menacing leopard prowls through downtown during the 1965 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. David Nance / Houston Chronicle David Nance/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
43 of 50 A Scotsman and his bagpipes during the 1965 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade. David Nance / Houston Chronicle David Nance/Chronicle File Show More Show Less
44 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
46 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
47 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
49 of 50 These Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade photos were taken in downtown Houston in 1964 by Morris McQuitty and shared with the Houston Chronicle by his son, Dennis McQuitty. Morris McQuitty Show More Show Less
As Houston volunteers and area businesses get ready to put on the city's 65th annual H-E-B parade, take a look back at these Kodachrome shots sent in by Dennis McQuitty.
The photos were taken at the 1964 Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Houston by McQuitty's dad, Morris, who inspired his son to take part in the parade for years to come.
Dennis McQuitty's own kids also volunteered with the Houston parade, although they have since grown up and moved away. He said he looks back fondly on the days when kids from all over Houston were piled into the backs of station wagons and taken to downtown Houston, "pretty much to get them out of the house so mom could cook."
Ed Smith, a former executive for Foley's who helped put on the parade in the 1970s, '80s and '90s also cherishes memories of those days.
Back then, the parade was organized almost exclusively by volunteers from Foley's and their families, Smith said. The floats were built and stored in a warehouse at the Foley's distribution center off the Gulf Freeway, and traveled downtown with police escorts the night before Thanksgiving. Volunteers would arrive at the crack of dawn to start inflating the helium balloons, taking note of threatening weather conditions.
Costumes, floats and celebrity guests changed over the years, but two things remained constant: There was always a turkey, and Santa always showed up right at the end, Smith said.
Smith said his favorite memory is "seeing the faces of the kids when floats were going by and bands were playing."
"It was magical. It was wonderful to see how the kids enjoyed it. And when I say kids, I mean kids of all ages."