Carousel Princesses + Thanksgiving Parade

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room provides a history on Charlotte's Carousel Parade  and Thanksgiving Day parade.

The Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade has been bringing a mile of smiles to Charlotteans and worldwide viewers since 1947.  The one-mile long parade that runs down 9th Street to Stonewall has gained a reputation of becoming the fourth largest parade in the country attracting over 110,000 live spectators and 1.5 million TV viewers. Elaborately decorated floats, performances, celebrities, marching bands, and the carousel princesses are the reason why people continue to look forward to and enjoy the spectacle each year.  

John M. Belk., the former chairman and CEO of Belk, Inc., started the Carousel Parade and scholarship program to attract more shoppers to Belk. Carolinas’ Carousel, a charitable organization, recognizes high school students and marching bands who achieve academic excellence. In 2013, the parade’s legacy almost came to a close until Novant Health stepped up to become the parade’s new sponsor.  

Part of the scholarship program are the Carousel Princesses, who represent various North and South Carolina towns. Princesses ride in the parade and participate in two full days of activities similar to a debutante ball. Activities include a mayor’s luncheon, a special tour and reception at Queens College, a Coronation Ball of the Royal Society of the Knights of Carousel where a new king is appointed, a dinner at Radio Center and football game. There is also a post-parade reception and dance called the “Queens Buffet,” where the new queen is appointed. Historically, princesses were presented with a variety of cash prizes and gifts, but the queen got to choose a beautiful evening dress valued at $100. 

Be sure to come out or watch the parade this Thanksgiving on November 28, 2019 at 9 a.m. to see why this has been a favorite tradition for several decades! 

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This blog was written by Julia Zwetolitz, marketing and communications intern with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.