Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade plans gobbled up by COVID-19, scrambles as virtual event


  • Courtesy of Lovio George Agency

Detroit doesn't need rain to spoil its annual Thanksgiving Day parade, which, as of Thursday, has been officially gobbled up by the state's amended restrictions on outdoor gathering sizes to curb the rising coronavirus cases statewide.

In September, parade organizers announced a new televised-only, gawker-less format for the 94th annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Organizers said participants, performers, and those featured on floats would be masked, and those on floats would be either a family or socially-distanced if not from the same household. The parade would also be spread out across a 1¼ stretch of Woodward Avenue.

However, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned against indoor Thanksgiving celebrations and announced capacity limits for outdoor gatherings this week, Detroit's chief public health officer Denise Fair weighed in and concluded that the estimated 800 parade participants and 22 floats would be in direct noncompliance with the state order, The Detroit Free Press reported.

So, what does this mean for the parade? Well, it, like so many things, it means it's going virtual. But organizers are still navigating how to make it work — and where — now that their plans have been upended with less than a week before the big day.

“We never intended, as I said, for spectators to come. We don’t want anyone. We are being so responsible, so safe, it is so important with the COVID situation right now,” president and CEO of The Parade Co., Tony Michaels told parade partner WDIV. “We originally planned to be in downtown. That probably will not happen now.”

According to Michaels, organizers are pre-taping segments, many over the course of the weekend, to piece together for Thursday's broadcast. It was not clear as to whether the segments would still feature the hundreds of performers. The event will, however, highlight this year's four new floats, including one dedicated to the nonprofit work of Hope Starts Here, an organization dedicated to early childcare.

This year's theme is “We Are One Together” and will, regardless of its format, honor Detroit's frontline workers who have worked tirelessly through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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