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Detroit Thanksgiving parade to spotlight youth choir, honor Izzo

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit —  The Detroit Youth Choir has experienced an "outpouring of love" since returning home from a finalist run on "America's Got Talent."

Its membership has doubled to 100. The choir performed at the Hob Nobble Goggle benefit event that rapper Nelly headlined at Ford Field last week. And it just shot a commercial at Fox Theatre for solar panels — the first in its history, which stretches beyond two decades.

While the choir is looking forward to a jam-packed 2020, with no less than "three performances a month" already booked, many of them out of state, the choir will enjoy one of its highest honors when it serves as the opening act for America's Thanksgiving Parade on Thursday.

The parade, in its 93rd iteration, will step off at 8:45 a.m. Thursday from Woodward at Kirby, heading south.

Anthony White, director of the Detroit Youth Choir, said that his goal is to "help young people experience the world through performing arts."

"We're going to do what we do best," White said. "We're going to show Detroit, and America, that these kids have what it takes to be successful."

The parade, in its 93rd iteration, will step off at 8:45 a.m. Thursday from Woodward at Kirby, heading south.

After the opening song, White will be chauffeured by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who will drive a Ford Mustang.

Duggan, in a statement, said "it's going to be a thrill" to be White's escort down Woodward. He honored not just the director's recent success, but a commitment that dates back to the late 1990s, when White started as a vocal coach for the choir, before being elevated to director in 2000.

The Kermit the Flog balloon floats down Woodward in the 89th annual America's Thanksgiving Parade on Nov. 26, 2015.

"Long before 'America's Got Talent,' Mr. White has been shaping the lives of hundreds of young people in our city for 20 years," Duggan said.

"Even when no one was asking them for performances, he made sure they kept rehearsing and preparing for when the opportunity finally came. Now they are a national phenomenon. ... Anthony White and the DYC are classic Detroit story of hard work and perseverance."

The 2019 parade will be co-grand marshaled by White and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

Weather is expected to cooperate, with highs Thursday coming in at about 40 degrees, said Sara Pampreen, a National Weather Service meteorologist. While overnight lows will come in just below the freezing point at 31 degrees, no precipitation is expected.

This year's theme is "Detroit Shining Bright." It will introduce longtime Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo to its pantheon of big-headed honorees.

When Tony Michaels, president and CEO of the Parade Co., told Izzo he was being honored, the national championship-winning coach was flattered but thought it was just for one year.

"This is a forever thing," Michaels recalled saying. "We have big heads that have been with us for 50 years."

Among others, Izzo will join the company of last year's big head honoree, the late Ernie Harwell. 

"(Izzo's) been a rock," Michaels said. "Just an absolute rock."

Meanwhile, White said he's "been waiting years" for an opportunity to partake in the parade and was pleased to hear from Michaels "every other day, just about" when the choir was in Los Angeles, competing on television. 

"The parade is a big milestone for our organization," White said. "It's great we're finally getting the recognition our kids deserve." 


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