Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is the 2018 Parade?
A: The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade takes place on Thanksgiving morning – November 22, 2018  from 8:00am until 11:00am CST.4

Q: Where is the Parade? How long is the Parade route? 
A: The parade is on State Street and begins at Congress and moves northbound to Randolph. The parade route is approximately 1 mile long.

Q: When should I get to the parade?
A: We recommend that you arrive early to get a good spot. For a less crowed area to watch the parade, State and Adams street is the place to be! Early spectators start to arrive between 6am and 7am. The parade starts at 8:00 am CST.

Q: We are not going to be able to make it down to the parade; can we see it on TV?
A: Of course! You can watch all the action locally live on WGN 9 Chicago or nationally on WGN America beginning at 8:00 am CST. Click here for more information.

Q: We live in Los Angeles and our cousin is marching in the parade. Can we see the parade out here?
A: Check your local cable operator or satellite provider for the channel number. The parade will be broadcast live nationally on WGN America across the country. Please contact your provider to carry WGN America so you can tune in on Thanksgiving Morning!

Q: What is the weather going to be like?
A: Average high 42; Average low 29; Late November, can bring a variety of temperatures and conditions in Chicago. You should be prepared for all weather conditions. The show will go on regardless of the weather.8

Q: Where is the best place to view the parade?
A: Anywhere along State Street from Congress to Randolph has excellent viewing.

Q: Can I volunteer for the parade to help out?
A: Yes! We work with over 1,000 dedicated volunteers that help out with the parade. Click here for more information.

Q: How much time does it take to prepare for the parade?
A: Each parade takes over a year and a half of planning. Throughout this time we are actively recruiting volunteers, looking for new and entertaining performing groups and working with our wonderful sponsors to produce this premier event for the city of Chicago. We have already begun the process of planning for the 2018 parade.

Q: When and why did the parade start?
A: Originally called the Christmas Caravan in the 1930s, the Parade was created in 1934 to help lift the spirits of residents suffering through the Great Depression. Since then, it has developed into a full-scale spectacle that celebrates the holiday season.


“The Christmas Caravan”

Q: How many people are involved with the parade?
A: This year we estimate to have over 5,000 spectacular participants performing in the parade, a program of over 1,000 fantastic volunteers, a dedicated Volunteer Leadership Board and many friends of the parade that have come together to create Chicago’s Parade.

Q: What makes this parade special or unique compared to other parades held in Chicago or even in other parts of the country? What gives this parade its own identity?
A: The Chicago Festival Association has made its mission to produce high quality community events that positively impact and positively affect the overall quality of life for the people of the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, as well as our guests and visitors. We have actively reached out to the many, many cultural groups here in Chicago to give them a chance to represent their community, their culture and heritage in our parade.

The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade is more than just a collection of balloons, bands and floats marching up State Street. It symbolizes a tradition of family celebration. This tradition will be passed down from generation to generation. The Chicago Festival Association is proud to be able to share these family traditions and proud to be part of shaping lifetime memories for families in Chicago, families across the country and families all over the world.

Q: How many volunteers are involved with making the parade happen?
A: We have over 1,000 dedicated volunteers that join the parade team each year. Families from all over Chicagoland make volunteering in the Thanksgiving Parade a part of their family tradition. They participate in various positions such as being a balloon handler, banner carrier and helping to check-in our units. Without the volunteers, an event of this proportion would never be possible.

Volunteer FAQ

Q: What is step-off? What is disband?

A: Step-off is where it all begins! Units assemble in staging (as far south as Roosevelt Road) and begin marching at Congress. Disband is the end of the Parade, beginning at Randolph and extending up to Wacker Drive.

Q: What time do I have to be there Parade morning?6
A: Your check-in time will be dependent on your volunteer position. You will receive more details regarding check-in times at Parade School. If you are unsure of your check-in time, contact your chair or vice-chair.

Q: What time will I be done?
A: The Parade is over at 11am, so all volunteers will be finished by noon for Thanksgiving dinner and festivities!

Q: What if I’m late on Parade day?
A: Being on time is very important. If you are not on time, we cannot hold your spot and may have to reassign your parade day duties to someone who is on time. Please arrive on time, check in at the volunteer check-in tables and then find your chair or vice-chair.

Q: Where do I go to check in?
A: Check in is located on the second floor of the Hostelling International Chicago. Their address is: 24 East Congress Parkway Chicago, Illinois 60605  Balloon Handlers, please go to the SE corner to the balloon inflation lot.  All volunteers will receive their duties, Parade Day gear and ticket for a volunteer gift bag at this time.

Q: Can a friend or family member check in for me?
A: No, everyone must check in individually. Anyone who does not check-in themselves forfeits their gift bag, their ticket to the Volunteer Thank You party and all other volunteer benefits.

Q: Where do I pick up my Volunteer Gift Bag?3
A: Gift Bag pickup will be at volunteer check-in after you complete your volunteer duties. The ticket that is given to you at check-in will be required to receive a Volunteer Gift Bag.

Q: Will breakfast be served Parade morning?
A: There will be a light continental breakfast available Parade morning. You can get your treats at the Volunteer Check-In in the Hostelling International.

Q: What should I wear?
A: Dress for the weather of course!! Wear khakis (if you don’t own khakis, wear nice jeans), you might be on TV and we want you to look snazzy! Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. Don’t forget your gloves, and layer, layer, layer!

Q: Where is TV Zone?
A: The TV Zone is from Washington to Randolph on State Street.

Q: Will I be with the people I signed up with?
A: We cannot guarantee you will be with all of the people you signed up with. We will do our best to accommodate requests, but we can’t make any promises. We recommend checking in at the same time as your friends/family.

Q: Can I get community service hours for my school?
A: Yes, bring any necessary paperwork to the parade and  the Parade’s Volunteer Coordinator, your chair or vice-chair can sign off on it.

Q: What if I have more questions?
A: No question is a bad question! Please contact us at or by phone at 312-239-0457.