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America's Thanksgiving Parade named best in country

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
"Animal" from the Muppets gets his own balloon in America's Thanksgiving Parade, sponsored by Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van has been named the best holiday parade in the country by the 2018 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. 

The 92-year-old production was selected by a panel of experts and voted No. 1 by the public. USA TODAY’S 10Best.com gets an average of 5 million visitors per month. 

President and CEO of the Parade Company Tony Michaels credits the parade’s grassroots feel as a reason people like it so much. 

“We’re a heart and soul parade; we really are,” he said. “We try to do everything that makes sense for entertainment, for kids, for the families, bring people together. It’s really a grass-roots type of look, type of culture.”

An estimated 1 million people came downtown to watch Detroit's parade on Thanksgiving Day this year, in addition to  viewers watching on WDIV-TV (Channel 4). The procession was also syndicated in 185 cities across the country, including five of the top 10 markets. 

Redford Township Unicycle Club members show their skills during the 91st annual America's Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit, Nov. 23, 2017.

“We push hard to get these stations to carry it across the country and we’re pretty proud of that,” he said. “Our whole thought process at the Parade Company is to put Detroit on this national stage.” 

Michaels stresses that much credit should go to the sponsors. Art Van is committed to being the title sponsor through 2021, and Strategic Staffing Solutions has signed on to present the pre-parade Turkey Trot for three more years. Thanks to sponsors, the parade will have eight new floats in 2019. 

The top 10 list was rounded out by the Sparks Hometowne Christmas parade in Sparks, Nevada; Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Ford Holiday River Parade in San Antonio, Texas; Reston Holiday Parade in Reston, Virginia; Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Alexandria, Virginia; Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach, California; Mayor's Annual Christmas Parade in Baltimore, Maryland; Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights in San Diego, California. 

Twitter: @melodybaetens