Thanksgiving tradition worth the cold

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit -- Why spend Thanksgiving morning sitting in lawn chairs along Woodward Avenue, with temperatures flirting with freezing?

Family and tradition. So say early arrivals to America's Thanksgiving Parade, which kicked off promptly at 8:50 a.m.

Mary Rivers, 50, and Lydia Sturdivant, 51, couldn't be missed, seated snugly together, in an extra large chair, both wearing white coats and hats, in the median at East Warren off Woodward.

Lydia Sturdivant, 51, and Mary Rivers, 50, enjoy the view of the parade from an extra large lawn chair at East Warren.

For the sisters, born only 11 months apart, parade attendance is only the start of their plan to honor their late parents -- placement is the second element. Where the two sat Thursday is in the area where they sat as children.

Swaddled together under a red blanket, the women insisted they weren't cold. The super-sized lawn chair, which Rivers brought from her Farmington Hills home, gave the two an elevated view of the parade.

That, too, is tradition. Their father used to bring a stepladder out to the parade, allowing the children an unobstructed view that's not always possible from the ground. The chair, with a weight capacity of 400 pounds, and its placement on the median, put the sisters a few feet higher than most paradegoers.

"We come out every year," Rivers said. "We'll be right here."

After the parade, the sisters planned to visit their parents' gravesite at a Macomb County cemetery.

Kathy and Jerry Hietla, both 63, stood on an elevated concrete post at East Canfield. The couple hails from Northville.

"This is tradition," Kathy said. "We have two kids who live in Detroit and were out of town, so we're here to represent the family."

But it's not just tradition that drew the couple out , Kathy said, it's the quality of the work necessary for the parade to happen.

"Who gets the pleasure and the honor of going to a parade like this?" Kathy said. "We jumped in the car last-minute, and found a parking spot" just off Woodward, with minutes to spare before the parade began.

Minutes before the parade started, Kim Stasiak, 53, pulled her granddaughter, Rylie Cagney, 17 months old, out of oncoming foot traffic headed southbound on the eastern sidewalk. 

"She's been the greatest joy ever," Stasiak said as she and Kristine Cagney, Rylie's mother, made sure she was wearing her gloves. That assured, Stasiak swept Rylie into her arms and gave her a kiss.

As Kristine's husband, Brennan Cagney, sipped coffee, his wife Kristine asked where hers was. 

Members of the Distinguished Clown Corps entertain the crowd along the parade route.

This was Rylie's first Thanksgiving parade, and that was worth a little cold.

"It's less about us, more about somebody else," Brennan said. "It's a good time in our lives." 

Tyrone Austin, 50, took his twin godchildren, Taylor and Tyler, 7, to their first parade Thursday.

"We came every year," growing up, Austin said in reference to his own family. But 2017 was their first parade together. "Now I'm passing it on to them."

Asked what brought him out on Thursday, and David Winkler, 32, of Highland Park, didn't have to think long.

"My family," he said, as he and his fiancee Colleen Davenport, 29, held children David III and Macy. "I've been coming for a while now. (Now I'm) passing the torch."

Thanksgiving 2017 will bring hundreds of thousands of people to downtown Detroit, for the state's biggest parade, a race for road runners, and the Detroit Lions taking part in a tradition that even the elderly remember from their childhood.

Here's what you need to know as festivities begin.

Baby, it's (kind of) cold outside 

Thanksgiving 2017 won't be as warm in Detroit as it was a year ago, when the high temperature was 46 degrees and the low was 39. But most of the day will be spent above the freezing point.

By early Thursday morning, temperatures should be in the upper 20s, lower 30s, said National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Manion. They'll hold there as people begin to make their way downtown.

By the time the Lions kick off against the division-rival Minnesota Vikings at 12:30 p.m., temperatures should creep to the upper 30s. By mid-afternoon, they'll hit the lower 40s, before falling again to the lower 30s or upper 20s going into Black Friday.

Sometimes the cold wins 

The parade was winding down, at about 10:45 a.m., off Selden, but for Barbie Keiser, 36, and her stepdaughter Samantha Hitchcock, 12, of Sandusky, Ohio, it was time to go.

Hitchcock's father and Keiser's husband had been drafted to ride on a SVS Vision float — "he wore orange," Samantha instructs — so they had seen all they came for. 

Hitchcock said she could no longer feel her legs. Keiser fought back wind tears. While staying to see Santa has a psychic importance to Metro Detroiters raised in the tradition of the parade, it was less crucial to out-of-town first-timers. They were prepared to head back, but because it took so long to pack up, they saw Santa Clause anyway.

The mystique of Santa was diminished, in Hitchcock's eyes, by the number of family members who don St. Nick's red suit during the holidays. But the parade experience was special nonetheless.

"We don't have anything like this at home," she said.


Turkey Trot

Going on three and a half decades, the Turkey Trot on downtown Detroit streets has allowed thousands Detroit-area runners a chance to get the blood flowing before food, family and football. This year's trot,  presented by Strategic Staffing Solutions, included 10 kilometer, 5 kilometer and one-mile races.

The event closed off many streets to automobile traffic, starting at 5 a.m. These are: 

  • Michigan at Cass; Michigan from Cass to Woodward.
  • Fort Street from Trumbull to Woodward 
  • Congress from Shelby to Randolph 
  • Larned from Shelby to Randolph 
  • Shelby from Congress to Michigan 
  • Monroe from Woodward to Randolp
  • Lafayette Blvd. from Trumbull to Griswold
  • Washington Blvd. from Adams to Congress 
  • Atwater from Civic Center Drive to Third 

The following are suggested parking locations: 

  • Ford Underground Garage - open 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $10 

  • Millennium Garage - open 24 hours for $10 

  • Grand Circus Park Garage - open 24 hours $20 

  • Premier Underground Garage - 5 a.m. - 2 p.m. $10 

People Mover will be free; where to find lost children

Detroit's People Mover, its above-ground transport system to get from Point A to Point B in the central business district, will be free for the holiday, 6 a.m. through 7 p.m., courtesy of the Sprint LTE Network. The Grand Circus Park, Broadway and Cadillac stations are closest to the parade. 

The Detroit Department of Transportation bus system is charging regular fares on the holiday but will operate on a Sunday schedule. Delays are expected from 6 a.m., and nine of its routes will be affected by the Turkey Trot, the Thanksgiving Parade, or both.

For a full list of route schedules and times, visit online at

As a result of street closures, DDOT customers can expect delays. Routes affected include: 

  • #7 Cadillac-Harper
  • #10 Chene 
  • #25 Jefferson
  • #31 Mack
  • #34 Gratiot
  • #48 Van Dyke

Downtown's streetcar will not be running on Thursday since it would obstruct the view of the parade. It plans to only make stops from Grand Boulevard and Sproat Street between 2-6:30 p.m. and will run until 11 p.m. on Wednesday. 

Lost children found downtown will be held at the Detroit Police Department's downtown services office at 20 Atwater. Call to see if your lost child is there at (313) 237-2850.

A Lions game and a Kaepernick protest

At 12:30 p.m., the Detroit Lions extend their Thanksgiving tradition by hosting the division-leading Minnesota Vikings. The Lions have responded to a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak, and look to take a step closer to the Vikings in their second and final regular season matchup of the year. The Lions won the first game, on Oct. 1 in Minnesota, 14-7.

Forty-five minutes before kickoff, at 11:45 a.m., a group of local members of Colin Kaepernick's fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, will lead a self-described "peaceful protest" that will be "focused on police brutality, injustices, and inequality suffered by people of color and the NFL blackballing of Kaepernick."

Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, began sitting, then eventually kneeling, during the national anthem during the 2016 NFL preseason. After being cut from the 49ers, he has not been signed to another team. Supporters believe that's due to his role in starting a protest that's ongoing more than a season and a half later. 

The protest will start at Erskine and Brush and move toward Ford Field. When the stadium is reached, protesters will "do a symbolic kneel and have a moment of silence."

"Ideally," protest co-leader Eric Brown writes in a note about the protest, "we would like to see the players of color (in the NFL) join us one day in a moment of solidarity by taking a game off."


2017 is the 78th year the Detroit Lions have hosted a game on Thanksgiving. The tradition dates back to 1934 and was inaugural owner G.A. Richards' attempt to draw attention to the new-to-Detroit Lions. The tradition went away from 1939 to 1944 due to World War II, before returning in 1945, after the war was won. The Lions' record in Thanksgiving games is 37-38-2, including last year's 7-4 win over the Vikings.

America's Thanksgiving Parade, continuing a holiday tradition in Detroit since 1924, heads down Woodward Avenue past Midtown on Thursday, November 23, 2017.

Be safe; don't drive drunk

Just about every police agency in southeast Michigan will be increasing patrols on what should be a historic holiday season, travel-wise.

Troy Police Department has announced it will "proudly serve" Lean Cuisine to anyone spending the night in its lock-up. Most police departments haven't even promised that much — just their vigilant presence on the roads.

Some 1.6 million Michiganians, more than one in every 10 residents, will be driving more than 50 miles from home over the Thanksgiving holiday, the most since 2007. Drive sober, drive no faster than the speed limit or conditions allow, and arrive alive when dinner is served.