CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A sea of smiling, excited little faces lined Tryon Street Thursday morning, waiting to watch the Novant Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"When mommie told us, we got excited. We started jumping up and down," said 9-year-old Precious Carter.
The parade has been a Charlotte tradition for 66 years but when the main sponsor dropped out it looked like the event would be cancelled. Fortunately, Novant Health stepped up to the plate and children like 9-year-old Michael Belk got their wish.
"I was very excited knowing that I was going to the parade and see everybody and the balloons," said Michael.
In addition to the marching bands, balloons and floats, organizers brought in several entertainers to perform. Brutally cold temperatures may have discouraged some from attending but thousands showed up, like Leanne Harrelson.
"I am very cold, but we have hot chocolate and muffins and sausage bowls,” she said.
One of the special faces in the crowd belonged to Ryan Pawlowski -- not only is it Thanksgiving, it’s also his birthday.
"This is the first day his birthday has fallen on Thanksgiving since the day he was born...he was born in 2002, has not had a birthday since that day so it’s a very special Thanksgiving," said Natalie Pawlowski, his mother.
Ryan will get an extra helping of joy on this day but so did everyone else who came to Tryon Street.
Here's a look at today's performers from the parade.
• a performance by local 16-year-old singer/songwriter Carson Hill,
• a surprise appearance by Charlotte Hornets legend Muggsy Bogues,
• a performance by Miss North Carolina Johna Edmonds,
• a tribute to our military service members and their families,
• a special appearance by Jon Wilson of Wilson’s World,
• a performance by Gal Friday and
• a performance by Caroline Sunshine from Disney Channel’s hit series “Shake It Up”
15 bands (high school and community)
• River Oaks Academy marching band
• West Charlotte High School Marching Lions
• Greenville Community Combined Youth Organization band
• Myers Park High School marching band
• Independence High School band
• East Burke High School honor band
• Bailey Concert marching band
• Drills of Hope “Marching Thunder”
• Garinger High School marching band
• Bailey Brass marching band
• Harding University High School marching band
• North Lincoln High School marching band
• Bailey Charlotte District marching band
• Vance High School marching band
• West Mecklenburg High School marching band
8 Larger-than-life balloons
• Publix gingerbread man
• Charlotte Knights baseball
• Visit Florida sunshine
• AT&T globe
• Visit Myrtle Beach beach ball
• Northeastern University penguin
• A Bounceable Time toy soldier
• Holidays in the City elf
15 floats (4 all-new for 2013, 4 snow globes)
• Food Lion/Second Harvest cornucopia float
• Queen Charlotte turkey
• Charlotte Knights snow globe
• Charlotte Bobcats “Buzz City” float
• Piedmont Natural Gas snow globe
• Ronald McDonald and the Big Red Shoe
• Carolina Kid News float
• Arts & Science Council snow globe
• CPI snow globe
• Radio Disney/UNC Charlotte Alumni Association float
• Autobell sleigh-washing station
• …plus a few surprises!
Performers and Sports organizations
• Fuzion Force
• Charlotte Roller Girls
• Silver Fox Cheerleaders
• Charlotte Panthers
• Charlotte Checkers
• Urban Cardio Dancers
• Carolina Fusion Cloggers
• G*Force Gastonia Roller Derby Club
Community organizations and favorite characters
• Carolina Clowns
• Elected officials
• Miss South Carolina
• Pretty in Pink Foundation
• North Carolina Lions, Inc.
• Wells Fargo Stagecoach
• Cory the Clown
• Gus the Talking Safety School Bus
• …and of course, Santa in his workshop!!
$5 parking will be available at the Duke Energy Center (550 S. Tryon St. – enter on Stonewall St.) as long as spots are available. For parade updates, follow the parade on Twitter at @novantparade.