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Chicago Thanksgiving parade a display of culture, togetherness after a quiet pandemic year

Chicago Thanksgiving parade a display of culture, togetherness after a quiet pandemic year

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Emma Gaebler, 2, sat on her dad’s shoulders and watched as marching bands and other performers walked past them along State Street on Thursday morning.

Her brother, Will, 8, tried to climb the crevices of a streetlight pole, peeking over the top of people’s heads to see as his mom, Liz Gaebler, 42, kept her hand on his back making sure he wouldn’t fall. It was the Gaeblers’ third time going to the parade, Will’s second and Emma’s first.

The Gaeblers drove down from Madison, Wisconsin, to spend Thanksgiving with family, they said.

“We’re just excited that it’s happening, and that we’re here,” said Phil Gaebler, 42, Emma and Will’s dad. “And that Thanksgiving is truly happening.”

After last year’s Thanksgiving parade was canceled due to COVID-19, people were glad to be back out Thursday morning to watch marching bands, musical and cultural performances.

The Gaeblers lived in Chicago for eight years before moving to Madison. Liz Gaebler said she watched the parade on TV every year as a kid, but her parents didn’t take her to downtown to see it.

“So it’s kind of fun to start a new tradition seeing it in person because you’ve got the excitement of the music and the crowds that you can’t replicate on TV,” she said.

Coming from Wisconsin, Liz said she was hesitant about going to the parade Thursday, after an SUV on Sunday sped into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, killing six people and injuring more than 60 people. She said that while it was a tragedy, it isn’t common.

“I think we oftentimes hear about the outlier,” Phil said. “You can’t let that ruin it for everybody.”

He said that as tragedies like the one in Waukesha happen, other cities should adjust to make their own events safer for people.

Cross streets around State Street were blocked off Thursday by city street operations trucks, including snowplows and sanitation trucks, as the parade made its way north on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Lake Street. A police officer working during the parade said it’s typical for the city to use its street operations vehicles to block the road.

The Taylor family, who recently emigrated from Belize, said they were seeing Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade for the first time.

Shanna Taylor, 42, said she didn’t expect such a wide cultural representation in the parade.

“That was a highlight for me,” she said. “Colorful, engaging, their outfits.”

The Aedok Lee Chicago Korean Dance Company’s Drum Ensemble performed early on in the parade. Women in shimmering dark green tops and long, navy blue skirts with colorful belts around their waists, drummed in unison, some twirling as they moved from one drum to another.

Later in the parade, dancers from the Korean Performing Arts Institute performed, some in bright yellow outfits with blue belts around their waists.

Shanna and her daughters, Leannie, 10, and Lizbeth, 17, moved to Chicago about a year ago to join her husband and their dad, Richard Taylor, 45. Still getting accustomed to American traditions, they said they would be going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night.

The girls said they enjoyed the “Star Wars” theme and the “Ghostbusters” theme in parts of the parade. And as a whole, the family was just happy to see people out and enjoying the holiday season.

“I love to see everyone all united,” Richard said. “That’s a thing compared to last year, this is really good.”


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