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Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade upended by city health department

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Detroit — The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed yet another victim: Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade, at least as a live event on Woodward Avenue.

The city's chief public health officer, Denise Fair, made the announcement Thursday, citing the state's new restrictions that prohibit outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people — a problem for an operation with 800 and 22 floats.

The parade, officially known as America's Thanksgiving Day Parade presented by Gardner-White, "will have to be done virtually this year," Fair said in a statement.

Santa arrives at  the 90th annual America's Thanksgiving Parade along Woodward in downtown Detroit Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

In September, Parade Co. officials said they'd still mount a live parade down Woodward Avenue, but just for TV — with mandatory masks and social distancing for performers and participants, and no spectators allowed along the route.

In a statement Thursday, Parade Co. President and CEO Tony Michaels said: "With our partner WDIV-Local 4, we will deliver a beautiful broadcast to everyone in Detroit and across the country. The broadcast will be a different and meaningful show with no public access."

Reached later that afternoon, Michaels added the event will be a mix of recorded and live events.

"We’re taping a bunch of things Saturday," he said, "and will piece together a great show with WDIV. We've got four new floats. It’s going to be great. We’re doing everything we can to make this a fantastic Thanksgiving."

Asked where the live elements might take place, if downtown is off the table, Michaels said that was all still being ironed out.

"We’re working on that plan right now," he said. "It was going to be a lot more live before this ruling came down. Now ... not so much."

Nonetheless, he vowed the parade, one way or another, will still go on.

"This tradition is part of our lives," Michaels said, "and the broadcast will reach millions in the safety of their homes."

Michaels said that he believed the Parade Co. was going "way beyond" the guidelines by having just 800 parade workers spread out over a mile and a quarter.

The theme of this year's parade is “We Are One Together” and was planned to salute  frontline workers and other COVID heroes.

Hosts this year are WDIV's Devin Scillian, Kimberly Gill, Rhonda Walker and Evrod Cassimy.

In normal years, the parade involves some 3,000 participants traveling a two-mile route.

mhodges@detroitnews.com

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