Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023: A Time to Give Thanks

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023: A Time to Give Thanks
The oldest Thanksgiving parade in the nation returns to the center city of Philadelphia on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
11/24/2023
Updated:
11/24/2023
0:00

PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—The oldest Thanksgiving parade in the nation returned to the center city of Philadelphia on Thursday. It’s a time for families and communities to come together, give thanks, and kick off the holiday season with joy and excitement.

The parade included an array of massive floats, choir performers, dance groups, and marching bands.

The parade also serves as a platform to raise awareness and support for charitable organizations such as the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA), which had volunteers near the parade’s end site, delivering Thanksgiving meals to 4,000 people with critical or serious illness in Greater Philadelphia.

Thanksgiving in America has its roots in a 1621 autumn harvest feast shared by the English Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. However, it was former President Abraham Lincoln who officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Since then, it has been observed on the fourth Thursday of November each year, bringing families and communities together.

The oldest Thanksgiving parade in the nation returns to the center city of Philadelphia on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
The oldest Thanksgiving parade in the nation returns to the center city of Philadelphia on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

‘Thanksgiving is the Time to Give Thanks’

This is the third year that Warren Kalbach has participated in the Thanksgiving Day Parade with the big turkey balloon.

Mr. Kalbach told The Epoch Times: “We do a lot of spinning of the turkey at the intersections. We spin the turkey for the children, and it’s just a lot of fun.” The people holding the giant balloon are all volunteers.

Warren Kalbach stands with the big turkey balloon during the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Warren Kalbach stands with the big turkey balloon during the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Kalbach said he comes from a very large family. He said after the parade, they would have a big Thanksgiving dinner.

“Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks,” Mr. Kalbach said. “So I’m very thankful to still have my mother and father. They’re both 86 years old. And I have 12 brothers and sisters, and I have 30 nieces and nephews. So I’m very thankful for my family and health. And just a beautiful day today.”

Philadelphia Mayor: Be Good to People

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney feels Thanksgiving is different from other holidays.

“Sometimes Christmas and other holidays are a little more emotional and nostalgic. You think about people that are not around anymore,” he said. “Thanksgiving is just a kind of neutral holiday when you just enjoy yourself, enjoy the family, enjoy good food, and just be thankful for what you have.”

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney says people should be good to others at the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) event on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney says people should be good to others at the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) event on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Kenney said he always celebrates Thanksgiving with turkey: “This year, we’re going to a friend’s house, so we don’t have much cleanup to do anymore.”

He thinks people should be always kind to each other.

“All the time we should treat people the way we want to be treated,” Mr. Kenney said. “Just be nice to people. Kindness goes a long way and when you create happy people, you’re happy yourself. So just be good to people.”

‘It’s Really About Family’

Kyle B. Thompson, a director and producer for multiple films, has been coming to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving parade for the last 30 years.

Mr. Thompson told The Epoch Times: “I’ve been coming to this parade since I was a little kid. So I have the opportunity now to bring my children to it. And it’s kind of a little nostalgic for me. So it’s always good to come here every year and see the family together and celebrate Thanksgiving.”

Film director Kyle B. Thompson watches the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and says “It's really about family” on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Film director Kyle B. Thompson watches the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and says “It's really about family” on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Thompson is 35 years old and has two kids. He has been coming to the parades since he was four. He said “growing up in this city and growing up coming to this parade. For me, it’s really about family.”

“I think that meaning of being able to relive my childhood through my children is kind of neat. So it’s cool to share that experience with them,” Mr. Thompson said.

His mom lives in the city. Every year they come down to watch the parade. After the parade, they would cook the turkey, stuffing, and have a family dinner at home.

From Missouri to Philadelphia

Visitors from other cities who joined the Philadelphia Thanksgiving parade included Missouri couple Ryan and Lindy O'Rourke, who drove 16 hours to Philadelphia because their daughter was in the parade with the Missouri Truman High School marching band.

It was the first high school in the state of Missouri to come to this parade.

Missouri couple Ryan and Lindy O'Rourke drove 16 hours to Philadelphia to watch their daughter who participated in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Missouri couple Ryan and Lindy O'Rourke drove 16 hours to Philadelphia to watch their daughter who participated in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

“Yeah, that’s amazing,” Ms. O'Rourke said. “We celebrated with our families.”

Mr. O'Rourke said: “The significance of Thanksgiving is our family and having dinner with all of our aunts and uncles and grandparents and remembering good happy times, and with our parents.”

Mr. O'Rourke said they are looking forward to visiting Philadelphia for the first time: “We had never been here. We’re gonna see Independence Hall and all those cool [places], the Liberty Bell. ”

‘Thank God for Today’

Both Dominique Hurdle and Edward Ferguson enjoyed watching the parade too.

“I like to celebrate Thanksgiving with my friends and family,” Ms. Hurdle said. “The significance is spending it with family, spending it with friends. And thank God for today!” She came from New York.

Dominique Hurdle and Edward Ferguson watch the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and say “Thanks for God today” on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Dominique Hurdle and Edward Ferguson watch the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and say “Thanks for God today” on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Ferguson loved the parade too. “I love it. I’m seeing all the Disney characters, all the movie characters. There are great bands coming by. It’s great for kids. It is very festive.”

Mr. Ferguson said: “The significance of Thanksgiving for me is a sense of community. Everyone gathered here together to celebrate good times and give thanks in a time of peace.”

‘The Most Important Thing Here on Earth Is Our Families’

Elder Cottam and his friends are missionaries and they had a whiteboard beside the parade route. They asked people to write down “What are you thankful for.”

Mr. Cottam told The Epoch Times: “We’re just trying to get back to the community and tell people that there’s greater hope than the things that are going on around here.”

Elder Cottam at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)
Elder Cottam at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 23, 2023. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

He thinks it’s time that people get to come together as families. He said he would meet with friends, family, and church members to do some charitable things.

Mr. Cottam added: “The most important thing here on Earth is our families, and the chance that we have to be together during the holiday season is really significantly important to me.”

Nancy Wang contributed to this report.
Lily Sun is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the tri-state of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.