Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade marches down State Street, as thousands brave the cold to watch

Tourists take in city sights

Friday, November 24, 2023
Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade marches in Loop, as thousands watch on
The Chicago 2023 Thanksgiving Day Parade marched down State Street downtown Thursday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The 89th annual Chicago Thanksgiving Parade did not disappoint, as a fan favorite, the helium balloons, made a comeback.

Thousands braved the cold to take in the Chicago Thanksgiving tradition.

"I bring the kids here," Sergio Calderon said. "They love it!"

Calderon came prepared with hand-warmers.

"You just shake them, and they just get hot!" he said.

More than 100 floats marched along the way, with musical performers, dancers and marching bands from 16 different high schools and universities from across the country.

This is the 89th year for the parade, running along Chicago's fabulous State Street, all decorated for the holiday season.

Actor Jesse Hutch is one of this year's Chicago Thanksgiving parade hosts and he joined ABC7 to share what we can expect to see in this year's Thanksgiving tradition downtown.

While it may be a long-time tradition for some, for others, like the Wasiks, it's the beginning of something new.

"Start a new tradition for the kids, something fun to do every year, because we live in Chicago. We have so much here," Grace Wasik said. "The big floats and the balloons for them."

Mason and Bessie Young traveled from Youngstown, Ohio for the parade.

"My wife kept bugging me 'I want to come to the parade, I want to come to the parade.' I said, 'OK,' ha-ha," Mason Young said.

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Bessie Young said she was looking forward to, "Everything: the floats, the bands, everything," including the balloons.

The free parade also featured 13 different cultures sharing some of their traditions along the route.

"We are from Guatemala, so we are so excited to see our people walking here in front of everybody," parade-goer Leslie Calderon said.

So many people got out early to enjoy the festivities.

The parade was led by celebrity co-hosts Jen Lilley and Jesse Hutch, and there was an appearance by Santa himself all the way from the North Pole.

Although most of the shops along Michigan Avenue were closed Thursday, many were still out and about with family and friends. They said Chicago is its own kind of holiday tradition.

Many tourists were seen taking in what the city has to offer this Thanksgiving.

"We're here to spend the week with our girls and have a little bit of turkey," said Molly Burke, who is visiting from California. "This morning we took in the parade; it was an amazing experience, thank you Chicago."

Many tourists were seen taking in what the city has to offer, but most shops had their doors closed for Thanksgiving, limiting options for people.

"On the one hand, you want things to be open. On the other hand, people deserve some time to rest, so it's probably good for the employees," Chicago resident Tyler Dann said.

"I don't even do most of my shopping in-person anymore," said Talia Deer, who is visiting from Miami. "I feel like with Black Friday now being a whole month, the landscape's sort of changed, but I do really appreciate the folks that do come to work today."

People said there's still plenty to do across the city Thursday, as some are just in town for the fancy restaurants in Chicago.

"Just enjoy all the cuisine here, and we love to walk, so this is making us walk in cooler weather. We're just here for the sights and the fun," said Linda, who is visiting from Indiana.

On Friday, the Mag Mile will likely be bustling with shoppers.

"Now everything's online, but it's still that impulse to go into the stores," Joe Ruble said.

Most of the stores in the area, including ones at the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall in Aurora, will open Friday morning at 6 a.m. for Black Friday shopping.