Balloons and much more return to State Street for Chicago's 2023 Thanksgiving Parade

CHICAGO - The sounds of bagpipes, marching bands, cheers, and laughter will fill downtown Chicago on Thursday morning.

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade will start at 8 a.m. on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph.

"We have 14 different balloon sets with favorite characters from Garfield, Peppa Pig, Bumble, and Rudolph from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," said Dan Mulka, the executive director of the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade Foundation.

Mulka says the foundation predicts 350,000 to 400,000 people will crowd downtown.

"It is just sensory stimulation beyond belief. It’s just so great to see. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that hopefully you can do several times," said Mulka.

One thing that sits in the way of the giant balloons is the L tracks.

"Imagine those giant balloons floating by. We actually have to teach them how to do the limbo. So, our volunteers will spread out. Some go forwards, and some go backward, so all of our balloons tip over, and we get them under the L track, then they pop back up and go down the rest of the parade route," said Mulka.

Five thousand performers, balloon handlers, and volunteers came together to pull this parade off.

Thistle and Heather Highland Dancers will dance down State Street. They’ve been performing for the crowd for three decades and plan to continue the tradition.

"It’s really exciting. There are so many people, there are so many groups, it’s a lot of fun and getting to wave at all of the spectators and everything. I am really excited about the balloons," said one Thistle and Heather dancer.

Mulka says it's a full-time commitment leading up to the big day, but it’s all worth it by the end.

Organizers say there will be a surprise balloon during this year's parade.

Thanksgiving Day Forecast

If you plan to line up on State Street for the holiday tradition, be sure to dress warm.

A cold front is heading for Chicago. Thursday will be the mildest day of the holiday weekend with temps expected to drop Friday.

It should stay dry throughout the day. Fox 32's Mike Caplan has your forecast.