Thanksgiving parade kicks off Chicago's holiday season

November 22, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The 79th year of the parade not only featured some of the area's most talented high school marching bands and other entertainment, but also the Tom and Jerry cartoon balloon inflatables for the first time.

"Five-thousand performers, probably about 300 horses, about 12 helium balloons, 24 marching bands, 17 floats," said Phil Purevich, parade executive producer.

Warmer weather brought out the crowds for the parade, which started during the Great Depression in an effort to lift the public's spirits and bring the community together.

"This is a fabulous way to start the holidays. It makes us think of all we're thankful for. It's wonderful," said Mike O'Donnell, parade goer.

"It's pretty good, everyone is really pumped," said Airi Wright, performer.

While many who came were left awed by the sights and sounds, the highlight was the parade's very special guest, Santa Claus.

Organizers say the parade serves as a kick off to the holiday season.

"It just gets people in the mood. They come out here, they celebrate Thanksgiving and everyone is ready for those great sales on Friday," said Purevich.

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