Charlotte's Carrousel Parade named tops in country

Lake Wylie PilotDecember 19, 2012 

— The Carolinas’ Carrousel Parade, which celebrated its 65th anniversary this year, has been included in US News & World Report’s 2012 list of America’s Best Thanksgiving Day Parades (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/us-news-travel/americas-best-thanksgivin_b_2082039.html ). The parade was among the top Thanksgiving Parades in 2011 and was recognized in 2008 as the fourth largest Thanksgiving Day Parade in the United States.

“We are very proud and excited that the Carrousel Parade has received this honor,” said Linda Healy Vespa, executive director of Carolinas’ Carrousel Inc., the nonprofit organization that produces the parade and its affiliated Carrousel Scholarship Program. “The parade has been an important holiday tradition in this region since 1947 and it is wonderful that it has earned this recognition.”

The 2012 parade was one of the largest Carrousel Parades in recent memory. It featured over 125 units, including floats, marching bands, and many special guests, such as world champion swimmer Ricky Berens, the cast of Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s production of “The Winter Wonderettes,” and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison, who was the parade’s Grand Marshal.

Also highlighted were the high school senior girls who participated in this year’s Carrousel Scholarship Program, including the 2012 Carrousel Scholar Mijal Bucay of Providence High School. Helping to celebrate the parade’s anniversary and the 45th anniversary of scholarship program were 12 Carrousel Queens who represented every decade of the parade’s history.

More than 80,000 spectators came to uptown Charlotte to see the parade and the WBTV broadcast of the parade drew an audience of approximately 100,000.

The parade and the scholarship program depend largely on sponsors and benefactors for funding. Companies like Autobell Car Wash, Food Lion, CPI Security Systems, Piedmont Natural Gas and Time Warner Cable have been long-time sponsors. It was announced earlier this year that the parade’s title sponsor, Belk, is not renewing its sponsorship contract after the 2012 parade. Belk’s departure opens opportunities for other area companies to lend their support so the Carrousel Parade and the Carrousel Scholarship Program can continue to delight audiences and provide college scholarships to deserving students for many more years to come.

“The Carrousel Parade and the Carrousel Scholarship Program have meant a lot to families in this region for decades,” said Jeff Collins, president of the Carolinas’ Carrousel Board of Directors. “A prominent member of Charlotte’s business community once said, ‘There are some things that are truly so much a part of this city that the very character of the city could be changed without them, and this parade is one of those very vital traditions.’ We could not agree more and we urge today’s business leaders in the area to step up to keep the Carrousel traditions alive—and to be part of one of America’s best Thanksgiving Day parades.”

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