The Carolinas' Carrousel Parade evolved over more than six decades as a regional tradition and highlight of the holiday season. Founded in 1947 by four local businessmen to attract holiday shoppers to downtown Charlotte, the Thanksgiving week events became so much more. Through 2012, the Parade and its ancillary events were produced by an independent, volunteer, non-profit, charitable organization, Carolinas' Carrousel, Inc.

The parade has grown in size and diversity and it is the largest annual gathering of Carolinians, drawing close to 100,000 spectators each year. In 2012, the television broadcast of the parade was seen by approximately 100,000 people. Over 120 units participated in the parade, including area marching bands, floats sponsored by local organizations and corporations, step and drill teams, entertainers and other specialty units. In November 2012, US News & World Report included the Carrousel Parade on its list of America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parade.


In 1967, Carolinas’ Carrousel, Inc. instituted the Carrousel Scholarship Program. The program awards college scholarships to outstanding students in recognition of academic achievement and community involvement. When the program began, the top scholarship went to the high school senior girl selected as the Carrousel Queen. In 2011, the title was changed to the Carrousel Scholar to better reflect that the program acknowledges achievement and is not a beauty pageant. From 1998 through 2012, scholarships were also given to outstanding marching band students.

In 2013, Charlotte Center City Partners became the producers of the Thanksgiving Parade, with Novant Health as its title sponsor. The parade was renamed The Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Carolinas' Carrousel, Inc. is committed to promoting academic and artistic excellence through awards to outstanding area high school students. Therefore, the organization will continue to produce the Carrousel Scholarship Program to award scholarships to a Carrousel Scholar and four runners-up and will award the York Scholarship for community service.


Want to get more involved?

For information about the Carrousel Scholarship Program, contact: info@carrouselparade.org.

For information about the 2013 Thanksgiving Parade, contact: info@novanthealththanksgivingparade.com.

Some Historic Parade Milestones:


1947 First "Charlotte Christmas Festival" was held in early November. Among key founders were John Belk and George Ivey. That year's twilight parade drew a crowd of 125,000.
1950 Name changed to Carolinas' Carrousel. 500,000 people watch popular cowboy star, Hopalong Cassidy lead the parade.
1952 Date changed to Thanksgiving Day so schoolchildren and workers could attend.
1954 First daylight parade.
1957 Santa's float breaks down, leaving Santa behind.
1961 Wettest Carrousel on record.
1967 Scholarship awards program was started.
1968 Twenty-seven (27) minutes of the parade were nationally broadcast on CBS.
North to South route is adopted to take advantage of sunlight for television.
1981 Marching Band competition was added to the Parade format.
1982 Scholarship awards increased in Representatives Division.
1998 Scholarship awards increased in Representatives Division.
Marching Band Scholarship awards added to the program.
2000 Robert L. Maddox Music Scholarship established ($2,000).
2007 Parade celebrated its 60th anniversary. Charlotte-based retailer Belk became the parade’s presenting sponsor and also brought the scholarship fund under the auspices of the Belk Foundation.
2008 For the first time, the Carolinas' Thanksgiving Day Parade started at 10 a.m. rather than in the afternoon. The earlier start time attracted a much larger television viewing audience than in past years and was deemed a huge success. Also in 2008, TravelMuse.com named the Carolinas' Thanksgiving Day Parade as the fourth largest Thanksgiving Parade in the United States. Scholarship program is renamed the Belk Carrousel Scholarship Fund.
2009 A huge balloon was included in the parade for the first time in many years. This giant turkey was designed to deflate a bit when it needed to maneuver under and around the traffic lights along Tryon Street. Unfortunately, our turkey had to nearly collapse to clear the lights at the Square on Trade & Tryon and TV viewers saw a bird bent over with his beak almost on the ground.

Belk signed on as the parade's title sponsor and the parade was named the Belk Carolinas' Carrousel Parade. A new Belk float was built to showcase Belkie Bear and Santa Claus. The parade route changed to end at the Levine Center for the Performing Arts on South Tryon Street. WBTV's cameras, the Band Judges' Reviewing Stand and the VIP Seating Area were moved to that area as well.


The cast of “Million Dollar Quartet,” a touring Broadway show, appeared on a float in the parade and performed a musical number for the parade spectators and TV audience.

2012 To help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the Carrousel Parade and the 45th Anniversary of the Carrousel Scholarship Program, many past Carrousel Queens appeared on a parade float. US News & World Report included the Carrousel Parade on its list of America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parades.

Charlotte Center City Partners assumed management and production of the parade. Novant Health became the parade's title sponsor, with the parade scheduled to march on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28, 2013, beginning at 9:30 A. M., as The Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Carolinas' Carrousel, Inc. continued to run the Carrousel Scholarship Program.