Marching bands, floats and a giant turkey are Charlotte parade traditions

Charlotte’s buttoned-down business district loosened its tie for a weekday recess Thursday that made way for floats, marching bands, costumed characters and a giant turkey.

That’s how this city does a Thanksgiving Day parade, and a crowd of about 70,000 was there on Tryon Street waving, dancing, smiling, clapping and snapping keepsakes with smartphone cameras.

“It’s like God blessed this day,” said 9-year-old Gabrielle Murray, grateful for the Carolina blue sky above and sunshine that boosted the temperature near 50 degrees despite the brisk breeze. “It’s perfect out here.”

The girl’s morning in front of the Mint Museum with nine other family members reached its high point when the inflated turkey floated through uptown.

“It’s a tradition,” said her mother, Eunice Murray of Charlotte, cheering from the sidelines.

Indeed, the event now known as the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade is among Charlotte’s oldest traditions, dating to 1947, through snowstorms, downpours and numbing freezes.

As always, you could see toddlers teetering from parents’ shoulders and strollers swaddled with blankets. Grade-schoolers bundled up and bunched together on the crowded sidewalks with siblings, grandparents and even a few pets as 4,000 parade participants put on a show that lasted roughly two hours.

Sheriff’s deputies revved their motorcycles and flashed blue lights. French horns bellowed, and drummers’ beat made you tap your feet.

“It’s a great reason to get out,” said April Whitlock of Charlotte, who walked from Dilworth to watch with her family and several relatives.

The event wrapped up quietly and without incident, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Gerard Farley.

“I didn’t get any phone calls,” he said. “I think it went off very smoothly.”

There was a bit more excitement for Becky Johnson of Charlotte. It came near the end of the parade as she climbed on board a southbound Lynx Blue Line train at Seventh Street.

“A big bang, power out, and we are not moving an inch!” she wrote in a Twitter post at 11:15 a.m.

The train stopped south of Carson Boulevard, due to a mechanical problem, Charlotte Area Transit System reported. It was enough for some passengers to imagine the worst.

“People were screaming, ‘I can’t breathe,’ ” she said, with a laugh. “Some people are a little more excitable.”

Johnson said passengers waited about 10 minutes before a second train arrived, and they were on their way again – with one more colorful memory of a day at the parade.