First held in 1920, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade has a vibrant legacy as the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in America. The parade was created by Gimbel Brothers Department Store for the children and residents of Philadelphia. After Gimbel's closed in 1986, WPVI-TV/6abc stepped in to continue the holiday tradition that signifies the official arrival of Santa Claus in the "City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection." With the support of corporate sponsors, 6abc has been producing the parade ever since and it now draws an extensive lineup of celebrities, floats, balloons, performance groups and marching bands.
Organizers strive to make the parade "the most band-friendly parade in the country" and they welcome applications from high school, university and specialty marching bands. The parade has 19 spots for marching bands each year and it accepts bands consisting of 90 members or more. Bands are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year and it is common that bands choose to return every two to four years.
Bands traveling to Philadelphia for the Thanksgiving Day Parade can take advantage of many educational opportunities by touring historic sites such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center. Many bands also incorporate nearby New York City or Washington, DC into their itineraries.
The 1.4-mile parade route steps off from the intersection of 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, turns left onto 16th Street and then left onto Ben Franklin Parkway. The entire parade route is free and open to the public, except for a limited number of grandstand seats in the telecast area that are for sponsors and VIPs only.
The telecast area is located near the end of the route, directly in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The parade is aired live on channel 6abc and is syndicated to various markets east of the Mississippi. The parade can also be viewed as a live webcast on 6abc.com.