Don't rain on my parade

Houston's Thanksgiving Parade is saved — for now: One-year fix leaves hope and questions

Houston's Thanksgiving Parade is saved — for now: One-year fix of hope

Annise Parker announces Thanksgiving Day Parade will happen August 2013
Mayor Annise Parker, center, with H-E-B director of public affairs Cyndy Garza Roberts, far right, and Central Houston chair Pam Gardner, far left. Photo by Joel Luks

"We will have the Thanksgiving parade," Mayor Annise Parker declared at Houston City Hall.

And with those emphatic words Tuesday, Parker announced a new one-year coalition that will ensure the 64th annual iteration of the endangered Holiday Parade takes place this November.

Lead sponsor H-E-B, the Central Houston Civic Improvement, members of Central Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance have come up with more than $400,000 to assume the responsibilities of the Houston International Foundation, the most recent parade organizer, which abandoned the event because of its own escalating financial duress.

 "The annual holiday parade is a Houston tradition that must continue. There was no way I was going to let everyone down." 

Ward and Ames Special Events will serve as manager of operations with additional support from the Mayor's Office of Special Events. The parade will take place the morning of Nov. 28, continuing a longtime Houston tradition.

"We believe that it will be a parade that, while a little different from what we've been accustomed to in the past, will be enjoyable by Houstonians and by visitors, and it will set us up well for future parades," Parker said.

The mayor is referring to the loss of a handful of signature floats that are considered mainstays of the outdoor holiday spectacle. The Houston Festival Foundation, the nonprofit that's known for mounting the Houston International Festival (iFest), sold all of the parade assets (including those floats) to the City of Hildago at a loss.

Sources tell CultureMap that city officials were hoping that the parade holdings would be entrusted to the event's successors instead, although the Houston Festival Foundation, as owners of the wares, had the right to offer them for sale.

Efforts are now underway to secure new floats, balloons and other amenities suitable for the family friendly procession. There have been talks with private entities that could put art cars, which have been not part of the parade in the past, in the mix. A design-a-float competition is also being considered as a way to acquire more decorated platforms.

Mayor Parker said conversations between the Houston Festival Foundation and city stakeholders exploring the possibility of finding a new host for the parade were underway for months, but the news that the parade's assets had been liquidated put a damper on negotiations. Still, Parker wished better days for the Houston Festival Foundation, stating that iFest is another staple event that's important to Houston residents.

Parker hoped that the transition of parade responsibilities would be smoother, but she says she's pleased that the event is in good hands — at least for one more year. Options for the future, which are still up in the air, will be evaluated to make certain nothing rains on this parade.

"The annual holiday parade is a Houston tradition that must continue," Parker said. "There was no way I was going to let everyone down."