Uptown gave itself over to fantasy and tradition Thursday, as the 70th annual Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade transformed uptown into a rolling tide of synchronized marching bands, glittering floats, giant balloon characters and, of course, beauty queens.
Organizers expected their biggest crowd ever, in excess of 100,000 people, including many who came for a glimpse of Grammy winner Anthony Hamilton serving as the Grand Marshal. In all, 120 units were included in the parade, which enjoyed temperatures well above freezing and no rain.
The inclusion of a Grammy winner this year harkened back to the parade’s heydays of the 1950s, when nationally famous names like actors Hopalong Cassidy, Tex Ritter, Buster Crabbe, E.G. Marshall, Michael Landon and Emmett Kelley were part of the festivities. Cowboy star Cassidy rode his horse Topper in the 1958 parade.
In 2013, the parade was in dire financial straits and had, in fact, been canceled. Then Novant Health stepped in as primary sponsor and the Carrousel Parade became the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day parade.
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This year’s parade featured 31 specialty units, 21 floats, 16 marching bands from area colleges, high schools, civic groups and faith organizations, 15 balloons, seven segwalloons (a balloon character attached to Segways), and one 5-foot-6 walking, royal turkey.