A corporate sponsor stepped forward Tuesday to save Charlotte’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade, which organizers had canceled earlier this month because of a lack of financial support.
Novant Health agreed to serve as primary sponsor of the 66-year-old Carrousel Parade for the next three years, and organizers said they also will continue the scholarship pageant for senior girls in the region’s high schools.
“When I heard it was being discontinued, I was in shock,” said Jesse Cureton, executive vice president and chief of consumer affairs for Novant Health – and a former Carrousel parade participant as a member of the West Charlotte High drum line. “I’m excited that Novant will help keep it going.”
Belk, a financial supporter of the event for years, announced last October that the 2012 parade would be its last as primary sponsor. The Carolinas Carrousel board said it was optimistic of finding another company to keep the parade going, but on Aug. 10, board president Jeff Collins said there was no sponsor for 2013 and the parade was being canceled.
Cureton said he was at home when he heard the news, and he started contacting Novant officials.
Also working behind the scenes were Democratic City Council members Patrick Cannon and James Mitchell, opponents in next month’s Charlotte mayoral primary.
Cureton said Novant officials decided the parade fit with the corporation’s message of wellness.
“The idea of marching in a parade and getting out of the house on Thanksgiving, the big eating day, is consistent with the wellness concept,” he said.
Titan, a media company with an office in Charlotte, also joined as a sponsor. And WBTV agreed to televise the event as it has done for many years.
Charlotte Center City Partners will take over the role of producing the parade.
Carrousel officials had said it would take $75,000 to keep the parade going. Novant’s financial donation wasn’t disclosed Tuesday, but it’s expected to take more than $150,000 to produce a quality parade, said Charlotte Center City Partners President and CEO Michael Smith
“We are coming close to having that much money from all our sponsors,” he said.
Cureton, like others on hand for Tuesday’s announcement in uptown, said the Carrousel Parade is a tradition worth maintaining.
“I marched in that parade, and I came to see it as a child,” he said. “Then I took my children to see it. And one day, I hope to take my grandchildren.”
Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey also talked of bringing children and grandchildren to the parade, adding, “I can’t imagine Thanksgiving without this parade.”
Carolinas Carrousel Board President Jeff Collins said, “It’s been an up-and-down few months,” but he said the Carrousel board was happy to have Novant aboard as primary sponsor and to keep the parade and scholarship competition going.
Tuesday’s news conference opened with the West Charlotte drum line marching into The Square.
Nijual Pollard, a West Charlotte High senior and a drum major, said marching in the parade is exciting.
“My family comes to see us. My friends come. We like putting on a show,” Pollard said.
Amir Olumoroti, a sophomore and the other West Charlotte drum major, said, “It can be pretty cold, but it’s a lot of fun. The crowd warms you up.”
Smith said parade organizers will have to scramble over the next few months. He said planning the event typically takes 12 months. “We’ll have 13 weeks,” he said.
A meeting is planned in mid-September for would-be volunteers and participants.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Smith said.
Steve Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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