Boscov's Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade

by Tamiya King

Until recently, the long-running turkey-day parade in Philadelphia was called the Boscov's Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade. It is a staple in Philadelphia culture, featuring Disney characters and local marching bands. The celebration is also the city's first sign of the Christmas season and marks the arrival of Santa Claus in The City of Brotherly Love.

Early Years

The Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia was originally called the Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This was the first parade dedicated to the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., and began on November 25, 1920. The celebration was sponsored by Gimbel Brothers Department Store; the company's president, Ellis Gimbel, created the parade to begin a holiday tradition for the children of Philadelphia. The department store was the name behind this historic parade until 1985 -- Gimbel Brothers Department Store went out of business in 1986.

Featured Entertainment

Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day parade lasts for about three hours and features local talent. About 13 bands from the city's high schools participate in the parade, and a youth choir of 1,000 voices sings familiar holiday tunes for parade-goers to enjoy. In 1996, Walt Disney productions became affiliated with the parade. Mickey Mouse, along with other famous Disney characters like Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck have been featured on the parade route every year since. Famous grand marshals for the parade have included basketball star Julius Irving, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers. Anchorman Sam Champion of "Good Morning America" and R&B; star Brandy have been featured at the parade as well.

Boscov's Connection

After Gimbel's department store went out of business, the company that took over the franchise, Allied Stores Corporation, was not interested in continuing the Thanksgiving parade. So, the Philadelphia ABC affiliate, WPVI (or 6 ABC), stepped in to continue funding the parade and maintaining tradition that had become a staple in Philadelphia; the station had broadcast the parade since 1966. The television station recruited other local businesses to becoming sponsoring partners for the parade, and Boscov's department store, a corporation based in Reading, Pennsylvania, agreed to fund the celebration, beginning in 1986.

Present-Day Parade

From 1986 to 2008, the celebration was known as the Boscov's Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade; in 2008, the Boscov's corporation filed for bankruptcy. After this, IKEA, the furniture company originally from Sweden, stepped in to partner with WPVI and continue funding the Thanksgiving parade. IKEA's U.S. headquarters is located near Philadelphia, in Plymouth Meeting; at the time of publication, the event is known as the 6ABC IKEA Thanksgiving Day parade.