Strike up the band. This year, Art Van Furniture has formalized our love for Detroit by becoming the presenting sponsor of the America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit. The parade is now known as America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Art Van Furniture.
We’ve been an active supporter of the parade since our founder, Art Van Elslander, wrote an historic check nearly a quarter of a century ago to ensure the parade would continue as an annual tradition in the Detroit area. A tradition since 1924, the parade lost the sponsorship of department store J.L. Hudson Company in 1980, and took a further hit in 1988 when national broadcast coverage was curtailed.
In 1990, when the parade was on the verge of being cancelled completely, Van Elslander pledged his financial backing to secure the future of this beloved Detroit tradition. Each year since, Van Elslander has been a major supporter, covering operational expenses and bringing innovation for new and exciting floats year after year, with the simple goal of bringing memories and smiles to generations in Michigan.
“This is our way of thanking all of the Michigan families who have supported Art Van Furniture for nearly six decades,” said Van Elslander. “We hope that when people line up on Woodward Avenue this year, the entire country will see how much we all believe in the parade, the city of Detroit, and in creating lasting memories for children and families.”
If you’ve stood along the route or watched on TV, you know the parade is a delight for the senses with colors and music filling the air with holiday magic. In fact, the nation’s most-loved Thanksgiving parade has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report Travel as one of the best Thanksgiving parades in the country, and is broadcast to over 140 cities nationwide each year. This year it’s bigger and better than ever.
This year, Art Van Furniture will proudly unveil its new “Art Van Wonderland” float that celebrates the spectacular holiday destinations we’ve built at our Warren and Grand Rapids flagship stores. Be sure to watch for Van Elslander family members who will proudly participate by walking the Woodward Avenue parade route and waving to spectators.
The parade has a rich history in Detroit, but we’re willing to bet that there are some facts you don’t know … until now. Here are five bits of trivia you can use to impress your friends as you watch the event:
1. It’s the second oldest. America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van Furniture is the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States. Started in 1924, it shares this title with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held in New York City, New York. The oldest parade is the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, starting in 1920.
2. The first TV host was a puppet. The parade was televised in 1959 and hosted by ventriloquist and puppeteer Shari Lewis and her sock puppet Lamb Chop. Through the years, other celebrities commentators have included John Amos, Ned Beatty, Kathy Garver, Captain Kangaroo host Bob Keeshan, Linda Lavin, Esther Rolle and Andrew Stevens.
3. The event is “heads” and shoulders above the rest. One thing that makes America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van Furniture unique is its collection of papier-mâché heads. J.L. Hudson’s display director Charles Wendel saw similar heads when he visited Europe. He had the parade’s collection made in Viareggio, Italy. A parade fixture, the collection is the world’s largest.
4. The original floats are still in use. Old Mother Goose was the first float in the 1924 Parade, pulled down Woodward Avenue by a horse. Today, she still makes an appearance, although she has been updated to be “self-propelled.” This year, eight new floats are being added, twice the number of floats added in 2012.
5. The event gives area leaders a chance to clown around. For 30 years, the Distinguished Clown Corp has been a part of the parade. The group is made up of 150 corporate and community leaders who trade their business suits for red noses and clown shoes, marching down Woodward and passing out 300,000 beads to parade-goers. This year, Maggie Allesee will serve as the Distinguished Grand Jester.