• Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers
  • WGN America
  • McDonald's
  • WGN

McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade Participant Guidelines


1. By completing an application to participate in the McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade, you understand that not all applicants will be selected for participation.

2. The Chicago Festival Association reserves the right to accept or reject any parade unit application.

3. The application serves as a waiver of release for your organization. By signing the application, you are thus signing the waiver and agreeing to the terms therein.

4. All accepted organizations must provide a certificate of insurance naming the Chicago Festival Association as additional insured with your organization.  Your organization assumes responsibility for your participants.  You can obtain this insurance from your general liability carrier.

5. All accepted float groups, staged performances, honored guests and specialty units in need of lodging will be required to stay at the parade’s official hotel, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Please contact Hilary Rosenthal at 312-329-7031 or via email at hilary.rosenthal@starwoodhotels.com  to make your arrangements.

6. All accepted marching bands in need of travel arrangements (transportation, lodging, etc.) will be required to book their travel arrangements through the parade’s official tour operator, Worldstrides Heritage Performance Programs. Please contact Marina Burnside at 888-242-7597 or via email at marinab@worldstrides.org to make your arrangements.

7. All units in need of pre-recorded sound must rent systems from Creative Soundz.  Please contact John Orzel at 847-299-5522.  Sound systems can not be mounted to trucks, SUV’s or cars. All sound systems must be battery operated or powered by a generator and placed on a cart and integrated as a part of your unit.

8. All participants MUST be in appropriately themed costumes, outfits or uniforms.  This includes all parade unit escorts or chaperones. Only one (1) adult escort per fifty (50) participants will be allowed to march with the unit.

9. Parade participants are not allowed to distribute candy, pamphlets or other materials along the parade route.  Prior approval may be given by the CFA for distribution along sidewalks (outside of parade barricades) to spectators.

10. Baby strollers and children’s wagons are not allowed in the line of march with units.

11. No vehicles are allowed on the parade route with participating units unless approved by the CFA. All vehicles in the parade must fill out a City of Chicago Vehicle Information Form. All vehicles must be licensed by a state agency. All drivers must posses a valid operator’s license for said vehicle. All vehicles must have valid insurance.

12. No entries in the parade are allowed to have motorcycles. The City of Chicago prohibits pocket (mini) motorcycles, mini motorbikes, motor scooters and/or three and four wheel all-terrain vehicles in parades held within the city.

13. All animals must be approved by the CFA.  City, state, and federal ordinances and/or laws apply to all participating animals. All equine units must have a negative coggins test within the past twelve months of the date of the parade.

14. Parade participants must stay in their assigned staging location unless otherwise instructed by a parade official.  Failure to do so will result in your unit being pulled from the parade.

15. Parade participants must keep pace with the line of march.  All units must maintain forward motion during the parade.  No counter marching or other maneuver contrary to the forward progress of the parade is allowed.  Gaps are not allowed to occur.

16. Parade units are NOT to stop in the television zone unless otherwise directed.  Keep forward motion at all times.

17. Parade units must follow instructions from parade marshals and operations staff.

18. Alcoholic beverages and other controlled substances are forbidden on and along the parade route. This includes all staging and disband areas. Participants consuming said substances prior to or during the parade will not be allowed to participate and will be removed from the line of march.

19. Use of any political sign, social or political material, or improper use of the American flag is not permitted.  “Proper” use of the flag is based upon U.S. flag policy set forth in the U.S. Code.  A copy of the U.S. Code may be obtained from the CFA.

20. Any additions or changes made to parade units after being accepted must be approved by CFA.  Parade units with changes that have not been approved will not be allowed in the line of march.

21. The parade staff reserves the right to remove any unit from the line of march for any reason or cause without advance notice.

22. All units should be prepared to stop and perform during commercial breaks.  While some commercial breaks will be longer, you should not plan on performing for more than 1 minute 30 seconds at each stop.  Anticipate at least three stops for commercials while on the parade route.

23. The parade will take place rain or shine.