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The 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual Thanksgiving Day Santa Claus parade held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, currently sponsored and aired by WPVI-TV. It was formerly known as the 6abc Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade and before that the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The parade is billed as the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, having started in 1920. Like other parades of its type, it features balloons, floats, high school marching bands, and celebrities. When the parade first started out it was called the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was called this because Ellis Gimbel, one of the founders of Gimbels Department Stores, wanted his toyland to be the destination of holiday shoppers everywhere. He dressed up over 50 store employees and sent them out on their first Thanksgiving Day parade. Another big part of the parade was seeing Santa Claus arrive. Gimbels created the Thanksgiving Day Parade here in America and their example has caused others to continue in their tradition. This tradition still occurs today. When BATUS Inc. was unable to find a buyer for Gimbels in 1986 the respected department store chain was liquidated and the fate of the country's oldest parade was up in the air.
When Gimbels shut down operations in 1986, Boscov's (a Reading, Pennsylvania-based family-owned department store) and WPVI (which generally uses "6abc" in its programs and promotions) took over sponsorship, thus changing the title to the 6abc Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 2004, the parade celebrated its 85th anniversary with special new balloons and floats. There was also a special opening number and tribute to all of the stars who have been in the parade in the past to celebrate the big 85th parade. In 2005 the parade had the most stars in the parade's history as well as more new balloons than before, with eight of them being new.
In 2007, the parade presented the first parade float with an ice rink on it, used by Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour (WPVI and High School Musical are both owned by Disney).
In August 2008, Boscov's Department Stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and planned on closing several stores due to financial problems. Though Boscov's insisted their title sponsorship was unaffected by the change, this was not the case; the parade's sponsorship was eventually taken by Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA, whose North American home office has been in nearby Plymouth Meeting since 1982.
Although the Parade is broadcasted by WPVI, the parade is also syndicated to television stations throughout the United States and can be seen world wide on the station's website 6abc.com. Good Morning America, ABC's national morning show, sends a reporter to the parade each year, covering pre-parade festivities.
The first people to host the parade were Jim O'Brien and Dave Roberts. After the sudden death of O'Brien, WPVI's Lisa Thomas-Laury took the reigns as Roberts's co-host. They hosted the parade together for nearly 20 years until Thomas-Laury began to experience health problems in 2003. This lead to WPVI weather anchor Cecily Tynan takiing over for Thomas-Laury. This was the hosting team until 2009, when it was announced that Roberts would retire from broadcasting on December 11 of that year; news anchor Rick Williams will most likely co-host the parade with Tynan in 2010.
Although she does not host the parade anymore, since her return to Action News, Lisa Thomas-Laury helped host the final portion of the parade in 2005 and in 2006. She made a special appearance in the middle of the 2009 parade to celebrate Roberts's time as host. She also appeared at the end to wish him farewell.
In 2006, the parade was broadcast in high definition (HDTV) for the first time.
(i.e., balloons that had once been in the parade but were later removed and then returned)
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In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the parade also features live music and other performances. High school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by famous singers and bands. The parade also features, beginning in 1997, a tap routine referred to as FanTAPulous featuring over 450 dancers from the east coast.
One of the largest food drives in the nation is the 6abc Holiday Food Drive (known until 2006 as the 6abc/Boy Scouts Holiday Food Drive). Every year around Thanksgiving the food drive sends out bags to residents homes and collection boxes at local stores. A few weeks later, they are picked up and sent to help those in need. The Boy Scouts also go to the parade route every year and collect food from spectators. The parade and food drive sponsors are generally the same.