Philadelphia Inquirer - November 21, 1980
It’s kickoff time for Christmas again
There’ll be something for everyone in Gimbels’ annual parade
By Dick Pothier, Inquirer Staff Writer
There will be TV stars, Phillies stars, Alice in Wonderland, Santa Claus and almost every kind of marching band and unit imaginable in the 61st Annual Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.
This famous local parade traditionally ushers in the Christmas season in Philadelphia.
The theme of this year's parade is Alice in Wonderland, and the theme will be carried through on no less than 24 floats – many animated – depicting Alice and the White Rabbit in familiar scenes from Lewis Carroll's classic tale for children.
Parade spectators will see a 10-foot-high caterpillar blowing smoke, the Mad Hatter pouring tea into a giant tea cup, and the Cheshire Cat with a six-foot grin.
And leading off the two-mile parade as Grand Marshal will be World Series Most Valuable Player Mike Schmidt, joined by fellow Phillies Larry Bowa and Warren Brusstar.
In the newly created position of parade master of ceremonies will be actor Richard Sanders, a Harrisburg native who plays the fuss-budgety newscaster Les Nessman on the hit TV show, "WKRP in Cincinnati."
And some long-familiar Philadelphians who made it in show business will be in the parade, too – Joey Bishop, Bobby Rydell, Andrea McArdle and Fabian.
In all, there will be 83 floats, marching units and groups of one sort or another in the parade, with more than 3,000 participants.
The Gimbels Philadelphia parade is the oldest and biggest Thanksgiving Day parade in the nation. It dates from 1920, when Ellis Gimbel gathered 50 friends with 15 cars, along with a fireman dressed as Santa Claus.
This year, Santa Claus will end the parade aboard a sleigh pulled by reindeer over snow-covered rooftops on a 55-foot float. At the parade's finishing point, in front of Gimbels on Market Street, Santa will be greeted by the queen of the parade and given the key to the city.
Aboard the 24 theme floats, the story of "Alice in Wonderland" will be presented in a series of scenes and vignettes from the story.
Alice will slide down the rabbit hole, then find herself under a 12 foot-high gilded table, meet and be rescued by colorful lobsters and turtles and then encounter roly-poly Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in the enchanted forest.
Bands and marching units from as far away as Indiana and Ohio will line up for the parade, which begins at 10:15 a.m. at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The parade will proceed down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, south on 16th Street and around City Hall, then swing east on Market Street, ending at Gimbels at 10th and Market.
The length of the parade will be more than two miles, Gimbels planners say, and the parade will take approximately 90 minutes to pass a given point. It will be telecast by WPVI-TV, Channel 6, beginning at 9:30 a.m., with Jim O'Brien and Dave Roberts. (For a change of pace for TV viewers, Channel 3 will be broadcasting the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City at the same time, with Ed McMahon and Bryant Gumbel.)
The pageantry and spectacle of the annual Philadelphia parade was viewed by about a million spectators last year, and at least that many are expected to see this year's parade – if the weather is clement.
And, as usual, there will be a variety of unusual entries. This year, for example, the Omni Roller Skating Club from Philadelphia will skate the parade route, performing jumps, spins and other skating tricks.
Also in the line of march will be the Liberty Belles, the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders; a Mummers string band, and the Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps from Annapolis, Md.
McArdle will appear on a float for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Rydell and Phillies relief pitcher Brusstar will be on the March of Dimes float, Joey Bishop will be helping out on the Salvation Army float and there will be a variety of radio-TV "celebrity floats" from local radio and TV stations.
There will also be locally and nationally known high school marching and music units, including the Cardinal Dougherty High School Marching Band from Philadelphia, the Golden Knights from Mount View High School in Welch, W. Va., the Blue Devil Band from Tip ton, Ind., the Iroquois High School Marching Chiefs from Elma, N. Y., and the Troy Colts Marching Band from Troy, Mich.
McGraw and the Philly Pope
The Philly Pops has been in existence for only two years, so it didn't exactly come of age Tuesday night in featuring Frank Edwin McGraw in a virtuoso rendition of "Casey at the Bat" but it certainly made musical history. The old walls of the Academy of Music never saw the likes of it before – an uninhibited athlete performing with a jaunty, accomplished symphony orchestra before an adoring, sell-out audience.
It was a night in which the audience relived the fun and joy of the Phillies' uphill struggle to win the World Series, for if ever a group caught the spirit of that memorable moment for Philadelphia, it was the Philly Pops. The acuity and the nerve to have Mr. McGraw perform with the orchestra underscored what a fine addition Conductor Peter Nero and Executive Director Moe Septee are providing for the city's entertainment.
Nothing could top Mr. McGraw's heart-stopping relief pitching in the playoffs and in the Series, but he came close to doing so Tuesday evening. He is as talented on the stage as he is on the mound and if the Phillies management doesn't have the sense and the cents to sign him to a long-term contract and settle his free-agent status soon, Mr. Septee should enter the bidding. Can you see Frank Edwin McGraw as Hamlet or Richard III? The lucky fans at the Academy of Music Tuesday could.
Sports in brief (excerpt)
Phillies players will make appearances in support of four Philadelphia organizations. Mike Schmidt will appear from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Philadelphian Apartments on behalf of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Larry Bowa will be at Industrial Valley Bank, 17th and Market Streets, at 11:30 a. m. Monday to help in the city's anti-litter campaign. Bob Boone will appear, with the Friends of Rittenhouse Square at 2 p,m. Nov, 30 in the square. Tug McGraw will appear for the West Park Hospital at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Park City West Apartments on Ford Road.