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New England by Heart

America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration

Mayflower Float

Last year I made my way downtown, through throngs of people, and took a spot on Cole’s hill across from the grandstand, to await with excitement Plymouth’s annual Thanksgiving parade. This takes place every year the Saturday before Thanksgiving and is the centerpiece to the weekend long Thanksgiving Celebration.

America's Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration

It’s an event not to miss, but last year was particularly special. The previous year (2020) was the when everything shut down because of the pandemic, including the parade, for the first time in over two decades. What made it particularly disappointing is that it was the 400th anniversary of the landing of the pilgrims. And no parade.

Well, they made up for it last year. Channel 5 broadcast it live for the first time, and there were more spectators than ever. It was a crystal clear day, blue skies, very little wind, the harbor waters sparkling as a backdrop to to the grandstand. And the parade was spectacular.

It began with very moving speeches by parade executive Olly DeMacedo (and the person who’s made this parade happen for over two decades) and Dr. Paul Jehle (Executive Director of the Plymouth Rock Foundation), welcoming and honoring the First Americans, Nations of the World, native Americans, with profound thanks for the help that the Wampanoags provided the Pilgrims, heartfelt contrition for the subsequent pain suffered by the native peoples, and a call for a federal apology to recognize the harm that was done.

First Americans, Nations of the World

Then on to the parade itself. The following images were only a sampling of the one and a half hour parade.

There were floats – oh the floats… starting with the WCVB Channel 5 float, whose news team broadcast the parade live for the first time, both from this new float and the from the grandstand.

There were bagpipers…

The wetu float…

The Mayflower…

Pike weaponry – I still cannot imagine how this plays out in battle, and not sure I want to…

The dependable Caballeros who join us every year…

The first Thanksgiving…

Turkey anyone?

Fifes and drums…

Um, the redcoats??

Oh, ok, the good guys will get them…

Clydesdales – Lord in Heaven, those are beautiful animals…

Suffrage! Women, remember to vote! And I loved that they pointed out that women bring ALL voters into the world. Yes they do.

Ok, this part was beyond amazing – to Neil Diamond’s Coming to America, we had a passenger ship followed by cultural groups in traditional attire…

Oh, and see that helicopter over to the left? During the parade the Coast Guard was doing a mock rescue from the frigid water – a perennial favorite.

Yes, that’s a spectator dressed as corn to the bottom left.

And then, then came a very long procession of people carrying flags from every country in the world. I can’t capture it adequately here. Remember, Neil Diamond is still belting out Coming to America. I wept.

And still they kept coming!

While corn man examined something on the ground.

Followed at the last by the American flag, under which we all unite. Apologies for the blur – I was no longer steady.

More rescuing over the harbor, while the band played on…

There were a lot of horses, which I didn’t mind at all.

And then there were these little starlets, who did a charming dance in front of the grandstand. Look out Macy’s.

And then the UMass marching band, the largest in Massachusetts (the picture below shows about a third of the band), ran en mass to the grandstand area, and played with more energy and enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen, at one point putting down their instruments just so they could dance a bit. And they sounded great too!

Then they split to line up along each side of the road to play Christmas music to welcome you know who!!

And the confetti snow flew…

So I ask you my friends, would you think this is a not-to-be-missed event? If you’re in the area, be here this year. And if you’re not nearby, but thinking about a trek to Plymouth, this is a great weekend to pick. In addition to the parade, there are concerts, a historic village, a beer and wine tent and more. It’s a celebration that starts Friday night, and goes through Sunday. Visit the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration site for more information.

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