Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From 295lb Elf to Santa’s Main Man, Jerome Lee is About to Venture on His 18th Thanksgiving Parade

Jerome at the 2013 Volunteer Thank You Party
It seems just like yesterday when Jerome Lee heard about the opportunity to volunteer for Chicago’s Holiday Parade from his wife, Precious. Jerome states that “On our first year, I was a banner carrier dressed as an elf. Can you imagine a 6 foot tall, 295-lb. elf?”

It soon became a family tradition. Brandi, their daughter, is about to volunteer for her eighth parade.  Their son, Marcellous, is about to volunteer for his seventh.  Each year, after the parade is finished, they take a quick nap and then spend Thanksgiving with family eating and having fun.

Brandi and Santa Claus
For the last several years, Jerome has had an important role. He serves as Santa’s body guard and makes sure that he makes it safely down the parade route.  He owns a protection agency that provides protection services to entertainment and executive industries.  Together with his staff of 20 years, Jerome has traveled all over the United States and overseas for assignments.  The celebrity list includes Jay-Z, Jamie Fox, Mary J. Blige, R-Kelly, Ramsey Lewis, Lupe Fiasco, Shaquille O’Neal, Devin Hester, Ernie Banks, China Anne McClain and Juelz Santa.

Jerome stands guard next to Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and WGN's Ana Beleval
Why should a family volunteer for the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade?  
“First of all,” says Jerome, “It’s fun.  Meeting new people every year, getting to know other families, learning about what it takes to put on an event like the parade and watching hundreds of thousands of smiles in the crowd.  For me, I have fun looking after the big guy.  Somewhere in my heart, I still believe in miracles.  So, I believe in Santa.”

Your family can still apply to be a volunteer at the 2014 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade. To apply, please visit chicagofestivals.org/volunteer. The parade is on Thanksgiving morning (Thursday, November 27) in downtown Chicago. You can also call Allison Prosek at (312) 239-0457 or email her at allison@chicagofestivals.org for more information.

Jerome, Santa and Mrs, Claus, and some of the Standard Force Family
(Jerome's Protection Agency)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Nation’s Best Marching Bands Will Meet in Chicago for the 2014 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade

You can hear the percussion beats, trumpet melodies and tuba blasts as twenty-five of the nation’s best marching bands are preparing for the 2014 McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade.



One of the bands included in this year’s parade is the Marching Chargers from Pearl City High School in Pearl City, Hawaii. The Marching Chargers will be making an 8-½ hour flight to perform in this year's parade.

Another band set to perform in this year’s parade is Tarleton State University’s “The Sound & The Fury”. Tarleton State University is traveling to Chicago all the way from Stephenville, TX. They are the second four-year university band to perform in the parade.

The parade also includes local favorites Kelly High School, Marist High School, Rich South High School along with other top Illinois bands.

Over 3,000 marching band members are expected to perform in this year’s parade.  Scroll down to read about our performing bands (and if you haven't, click like on our Facebook widget as well)!


Arkansas City High School Bulldog Band

The Arkansas City High School band program has a long history of success in all areas of performance. Located along the Kansas-Oklahoma border, the Bulldog Marching Band has performed at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and twice at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. They host their own marching festival the last Saturday in October that features a unique 'light' show.

For more information, please visit their Facebook page.

Baldwin High School Marching Pride
The Baldwin High School Band has been known for their Spirit, Pride, and Excellence since 1957. The Baldwin High School Marching Pride participates in several marching competitions throughout the state of Georgia and Alabama. 

For more information, please visit their web site. 

Bartlett High School Marching Hawks 
The Bartlett High School Marching Hawks since 1997 have serviced the town of Bartlett and the surrounding communities with their numerous performances of parades, field shows, and concerts. They feature a twenty piece drum line and nearly one hundred brass and woodwind players. This year, the ensemble will debut their new marching band uniforms!

If you would like to learn more about the Bartlett High School Marching Hawks, please visit their web site.

Bay High School "Million Dollar Band"
The Bay High School “Million Dollar” Band Program was incorporated in 1937 and currently has an enrollment of over 175 students 9-12.  This superior rated band has performed in numerous special performances including the 2010 McDonalds Thanksgiving Parade.

If you would like to learn more about the Bay High School Million Dollar Band program, please visit  their web site

Bishop Noll Institute
The Bishop Noll Institute has had a story of history going back as far as the 1940s. They have won numerous awards and performed hundreds of times. All members of the band belong to the Tri-M music society, a national honor society for band students.

For more information, please visit  their web site

The Mighty Tiger Marching Band
The Mighty Tiger Marching Band from Blanche Ely High School is a Traditional Show-Style Band with a Big-Ten Flair. Their band consists of 168 winds, 24 percussion (6 Melodic) and 32 Color Guards. Their theme is titled: Urban Variations: A tribute to the Modern Day Classics. They’ll be playing excerpts from Beethoven's 5th, Night on Bald Mountain, Samuel Hazo's Ride and music from Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

To learn more, please visit  their web site

Castlewood Warrior Marching Band
The Castlewood Warrior Marching Band is the small band with the big sound, as evidenced by their 2009 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade performance. The Castlewood Warrior Marching Band is made up of 68 of the 88 students in the school. 

The musicians of Castlewood High School proudly aim to continue their tradition of excellence year after year.

DeKalb High School Marching Barbs
The DeKalb High School Marching Barbs has performed several times in the McDonalds Thanksgiving Parade but 2014 would mark the band’s 10th trip down State Street.  The Marching Barbs music program continues to boast excellence while performing ensembles in a variety of genres.

To learn more, please visit their web site.

Elgin High School
The Maroon Marching Band is a growing program made up of 70+ talented young men and women. These students dedicate a lot of time and energy to improving the band program at Elgin High School

They have performed at many places over the United States and are really excited to be a part of the 2014 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade.

Pride of the Devils Greene Devil Band
The Pride of the Devils Greene Devil Band comes from Greeneville High School in Greeneville, Tennessee. This band has consistently received superior ratings at numerous marching band events for the past four years and multiple first place awards over the last 40 years. The theme for their performance will be "British Invasion".

For more information on The Pride of the Devils Greene Devil Band, please visit their web site.

Hinsdale South High School
The Hinsdale South High School marching band is from Darien, Illinois. The march with a banner and color guard in front, drum line in middle and brass in back. They will be performing the songs, “You Can't Always Get What You Want”, “Get Off of My Cloud Come Sail Away Time is on My Side”, and “Satisfaction”.  

For more information, please visit their web site.

Kelly High School
The Kelly High School Marching Band will be presenting their 2014 winter festival show music. We are anticipating the funding to be completed to showcase our brand new marching band uniforms in time for the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Parade.

For more information, please visit their web site.

Blue Tide Band
The Blue Tide Band of Long County High School numbered 11 members just 4 years ago. Now, after an increased commitment by the Long County Board of education to improve music in the area, the band program is at nearly 300. The Blue Tide Band has earned Superior awards at competitions as well as many 1st place awards. 

The Blue Tide Band recently won the Sugar Bowl field competition and was a distinguished member of the halftime show earlier this year.

Marist High School Marching Band
The Marist High School Marching Band is the only band in Chicago to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The Marist Band has traveled across the country- from the Rose Bowl, all the way to New York City. Most recently, the band participated in the 2010 McDonalds’ Thanksgiving Parade.

For more information, visit their web site. 

Merrillville High School
The Merrillville High School Band-of-Pirates is composed of 90 students from the high school including Color-Guard and Drum-line. They compete in Marching Band contests through the fall, all home football games, and many local parades.

For more information, please visit their web site

Moore High School Marching Band
The Moore High School Band has been an active performing group across the state of Oklahoma and the rest of country for years. They have earned numerous superior ratings in the concert setting, and in sigh treading. The Moore High School Band is excited to participate in this year's 2014 McDonalds’ Thanksgiving Parade.

For more information, please visit their web site.

Morris Community High School Band
The Morris Community High School Band has participated in many festivals and field show competitions all around Illinois. The band received Division One Ratings during their IHSA Organizational Performances. The band is returning to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade after appearing in 2012.

For more information on the Morris Community High School band, please visit their web site.

Pearl City High School “Charger” Marching Band
The Pearl City High School “Charger” Marching Band shines as an exemplary program within their community. Their school is located in the islands of Oahu, Hawaii. They have traveled the world participating in multiple parades while performing their music. Their band is known for their high energy, excitement, and entertainment.

Rich South High School
The Rich South High School Marching Show Style Marching Band is from Richton Park, Illinois. This year they will be performing different a selection of Christmas Music, including “Jingle Bells,” and several R&B songs.

For more information, please visit their web site.

Southern Boone Marching Eagles
The Southern Boone High School Marching Eagles is a proud rural school band from Ashland, Montana. They always aim for the bigger things in life and routines are always polished and entertaining.  

For more information on Southern Boone Marching Eagles, please visit their web site

The Musical Pride of Springville Marching Band
Springville High School of Springville, Iowa, is a GRAMMY® Signature School, where over 50% of students participate in the music program. The concert band has earned consistent Superior ratings in regional and state festivals. This drum corps style marching band can’t wait to be a part of this tradition.

For more information on The Musical Pride of Springville Marching band, please visit their web site

The Sound & The Fury
The Sound & The Fury is the Tarleton State University Texan Marching band from Stephenville, TX. Coming humble beginnings as a small military band in the 1920s, in 1983 the Texan Band doubled in size and was renamed "The Sound & The Fury". The band has continued steady growth to this current year. Now being the largest student organization on the Tarleton Campus.

To learn more about The Sound & The Fury visit their web site.

Marching Wildcats
The Thornton Township High School Marching Wildcats are a high energy show style band with the commitment to Performance with Excellence. The band features top notch high school musicians, Dance Troop called the Sophisticats which were IHSA State Qualifiers in February and Flags called the Spincats. The band has received Division I Superior ratings at the Band IHSA Organizational for the past 20 years.

For more information on the Marching Wildcats, visit their web site

Volunteer High School "Falcon" Band
Volunteer High School "Falcon" Band is a drum corps style marching band. This band was formed in 1980 with the combination of the Surgoinsville High School and Church Hill High School Band. The band has developed tremendously and now earned consistent Superior ratings in regional and state festivals.

For more information, visit their web site.

Waukegan High School Bulldog Marching Band
The Bulldog Marching Band is one component of Waukegan High School's comprehensive band program. Regularly participating in local marching band competitions the Bulldog Marching Band is proud to provide spirited, enthusiastic entertainment to many community events in the Waukegan area.

For more information on the Bulldog Marching Band, go to their web site.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Our Number Two Experience is Number One! - An Interview with Poo Crew Member Linsey Crowninshield

The McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade is put together by over 1,300 volunteers that generously get up early and give their time to entertain millions of people across the country on this holiday. There is one group of volunteers that gets more applause and more appreciation than any other – the group of volunteers that follows behind our equestrian groups to make sure the road is clean for everyone marching in the parade.

That group is the Poo Crew.

Without the Poo Crew, our marching bands would have to watch their steps rather than looking where they are going. Without the Poo Crew, the parade floats would be dodging road apples. Without the Poo Crew, the on-street crowd wouldn’t be able to clap for each parade unit – as they would be pinching their noses instead.

The Chicago Festival Association sat down with Linsey Crowninshield, who will be spending her eighth season on the Poo Crew this upcoming Thanksgiving.

1.  How did you get involved with the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade?  How long have you volunteered?

In the first years that I lived in Chicago, members of my family would take turns visiting for Thanksgiving. We decided to make it a tradition to attend the Thanksgiving Parade. In that first year of the tradition, something awe inspiring happened. While watching the parade a family who was volunteering on the Poo Crew was pushing along a garbage bin that had the signage “Poo Fairy”. When the garbage bin was pushed up towards the spectators a young girl about 12 years old in a fairy costume popped out and threw confetti on the audience. The audience laughed and cheered and at that moment I fell in love with this family and their tradition. I wanted to volunteer to be on the Poo Crew! The Poo Fairy was my inspiration! Thanksgiving in my family has always been about tradition and celebration and coming together to share joy in what we have and what we can do for others. So 2014 marks year 8 on the Poo Crew for myself and year 5 for my mother.


2.  What is the typical response when you tell someone that you volunteer with the Poo Crew?  What makes the Poo Crew the best volunteer position at the parade?

“The Poo Crew what’s that? Oh....ewwww, that sounds gross. Why would you do that?”

Why Not! In my experience the Poo Crew is in a close second for crowd applause after Santa Claus. You may even get to go down the route twice! What makes for a greater story than when you are standing in line at the grocery store or needing to make friends while waiting at the doctors’ office or sitting on a 4 hour airplane ride!

Do something that humbles you a little now and then. Be a part of something that brings joy to so many others!


3.  What's a memorable story that you would like to share with the public about your volunteer experience?

My friend Deb (see picture of us as turkeys and in the snowflake theme) and I, since our first parade, had dreamed of following down the route the infamous Budweiser Clydesdales.  Now, you may not think that being on the Poo Crew is a competitive art form, however we learned quickly that if you want to follow the Clydesdales down the route you must standout on the crew. Come up with a routine or act to entertain the audience, dress in a Holiday theme; show your commitment as a long time volunteer, whatever it takes! In past years, fellow crew members dressed as Minions, in Grinch PJ’s, and energetic teenagers were chosen instead of us, but not in 2012.  2012 was going to be our year to pick up the pristine poo of the Clydesdales.

A small misfortune of losing a friends red cotton leg of a turkey costume and having to purchase a second costume to supplement the first, became our brilliant game plan. We would come dressed as the staple of Thanksgiving dinner. Deb and I in our turkey costumes and Quinn, my now husband as a pilgrim. We approached our holding area on Polk Street and greeted our fellow crew members. Would we be the chosen crew? Yes! Deb’s parade dreams come true!

4.  After the conclusion of the parade, what do you do for the rest of Thanksgiving Day?

What else, become spectators of the parade, stroll down the streets of Chicago. Be mesmerized by the Macy’s Holiday Windows. Wander the Christkindlmarket in search for Holiday gifts and a warm beverage. Think maybe I should have done the Turkey Trot this year. Lastly I think of goals for next year. Before I was married, mom or others and I would order room service in our hotel room and watch football. After I got married, we now spend the day with family and friends, enjoying conversation, games, and a fire in the hearth Oh and we always go to the theatre on Friday or Saturday night.


5.  Why should someone volunteer for the McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade?

Being a part of the McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade is being a part of something grand. The parade is in its 81st  year this year, a Grand Tradition for Chicago families and families across the US. Volunteering makes this tradition a reality for others, brings joy to the holiday, and brings smiles to the faces in the crowd. I have met wonderful people and volunteered year after year alongside kind and caring individuals. The parade has become a yearly highlight for myself, a tradition for my family. Thanksgiving would not be as meaningful if I didn’t have my parade experience, I feel and know that I am part of something Grand.

Volunteer for the 2014 McDonald’s Thanksgiving ParadeAre you looking to create millions of magical memories? Are you looking to start a new holiday tradition? Are you looking to have fun? Apply now to become a volunteer for this year’s McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade! The parade takes place on Thanksgiving morning in State Street in downtown Chicago.  For more information and to apply today, please visit chicagofestivals.org/volunteer. You can also contact Allison at 312-239-0457 or Allison@chicagofestivals.org.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Volunteering is a Family Thing, Just Ask the Eldridges

Steve Eldridge, Kim Eldridge, Cymande Eldridge, Marci
The Eldridge Family has made volunteering with the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade a family tradition, dating back 14 years.

And it all started on a train.

Steve Eldridge is a conductor on the South Shore Railroad. He overheard one of his riders talking about this volunteer opportunity and immediately talked to his wife, Kim. They instantly signed up to be volunteers with the parade.

For their first year with the parade, they escorted one of our equestrian units down the parade route. In the following years, they would be joined by their daughter Cymande and her friend. Over their many years with the parade, they have tried different volunteer positions including: balloon handlers and their personal favorite – banner carrying.

The family makes it a special outing. “Usually afterward,” Kim added,” we head home and I bake. We go to my dads for Thanksgiving dinner later in the day. The year before last, we went immediately to the airport. I flew to Washington, DC to be part of the crew who decorated the White House for the holidays.”

When asked why a family should volunteer for the parade, Kim stated that, ”it’s all about creating family memories. Every year is fun, its good family time”!

Your family can still apply to be a volunteer at the 2014 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade.  To apply, please visit chicagofestivals.org/volunteer.  The parade is on Thanksgiving morning (Thursday, November 27) in downtown Chicago.  You can also call Allison Prosek at (312) 239-0457 or email her at allison@chicagofestivals.org for more information.



Steve, Kim, Cymande and Honorary Grand Marshal
Ronald McDonald®

Monday, March 3, 2014

2013 Photos from the Thank You Party

Thank you to everyone who attended our Thank You Party, hosted by 115 Bourbon Street.  Thank you to everyone who couldn't make it as well, since we can't put on this parade without every single volunteer, participant, sponsor and VIP.

Thank you for helping to create FREE family entertainment for millions around the nation.

We've picked just a few photos to highlight here, but you can see EVERY photo from the Thank You party by clicking this link.

Don't miss out on 2014's fun!  Sign up to volunteer now by visiting http://chicagofestivals.org/contact/apply-be-volunteer-2014-mcdonalds-thanksgiving-parade.








Congratulations to the 2013 Volunteer Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2013 Volunteer Award Winners, who received their award at this year's Thank You Party (hosted by our friends at 115 Bourbon Street).

Don't forget, you can sign up to be a volunteer for the 2014 McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade by clicking here!  Help us entertain millions with FREE, family friendly entertainment.

Rookie Volunteer of the Year:  Lydia Laboy
(was not present at Thank You Party)

Volunteer of the Year: Wade Frazier

Leadership Board Chair of the Year:  Ellen Melo-Waak

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dancing Stormtroopers!!!

Even Stormtroopers enjoy the holidays!

Video from the 80th McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Chicago.