A line of Corvettes revving their engines, unicycles, dressed-up dogs, tiny horses, marching bands, kids on shoulders.
The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade delighted thousands who lined State Street in the Loop on Thursday.
“It’s just nice to be here post-Covid. Yeah, it’s really nice to be back,” said Sierra Smith, 34, who attended the parade with her husband, Brian Burke, and their toddler son, Beckham.
“And it’s nice coming into my own with hosting duties on Thanksgiving for the first time this year,” said Smith, who lives in Lincoln Park and has family in town from rural Iowa.
Asked about her calm demeanor with hosting duties looming, Smith shared her secret: a reservation at a local restaurant.
“And tomorrow we’re going to the Museum of Ice Cream and Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo,” she said.
The annual parade was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic but returned in 2021, with many visitors opting to wear masks. Few masks were seen in the crowd Thursday.
Harrison Hsueh, 26, an electrical engineer from suburban Detroit, rode his unicycle in the parade with a group of 27 other enthusiasts who are members of the Unicycling Society of America.
“I just thought it was really cool that people would wave back at me,” said Hsueh of his first parade on a unicycle.
He started riding in high school with three friends and continued with a group he found while studying at the University of California, Berkeley.
“We ride in circles and do formations, and one member will get off his unicycle and lay down and another unicycle will jump over him,” he said of the society’s parade routine.
Tristan Dolik, of Roscoe Village, arrived at the parade with his family at 5 a.m. because his son, Liam, 8, was performing in it as part of a crew from Cirques Experience, a Chicago-based company that teaches circus acts to kids.
Dolik watched his son spin down the street in a contraption known as the German Wheel.
“I’m proud of him. And it’s nice being in the Loop again,” Dolik said of the merry downtown vibe. “There’s a parade but otherwise there’s not a lot of people down here and you kind of feel like it’s your own downtown.”
Ignacio Vincentelli, an attorney from Memphis, Tennessee, watched the parade with his daughter, Julieta, on his shoulders.
“It feels much more normal this year,” he said of his family’s annual visit to spend Thanksgiving with his sister, who lives in Evanston.
From her perch, Julieta, 6, said her favorite part of the parade was seeing a woman dressed as a queen.
“I’m in kindergarten,” she added.
Vincentelli said he planned to visit several museums and check out a few Frank Lloyd Wright houses while in town.
“I’m in kindergarten,” Julieta repeated in a louder voice.
“She’s in kindergarten,” her father confirmed with a laugh as a group dressed in giant panda costumes rode by on a float.