Milwaukee Holiday Parade organizers to retire annual event

Organizers cite lack of sponsors, downtown construction

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The organizers of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade are retiring from putting on the annual event, prompted by a lack of funding and logistical challenges associated with downtown construction.

Suzanne DeGrace Spaeth, producer of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade, announced her family’s retirement from putting on the annual event.

Barring another organizer or sponsor deciding to continue the annual parade, last year’s parade will have been the last, organizers said in an announcement today.

Four members of the DeGrace family, which has put on the event for the last 66 years of the parade’s 92-year history, announced their decision to retire on Wednesday morning.

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“The parade has been a part of my family since my father took it over in 1953, and the decision to retire both our work and the parade was extremely difficult for me and my family. We did not make this choice lightly,” said parade producer Suzanne DeGrace Spaeth.

To launch the parade in its traditional format —which has included a live-television event and more than 100 units of marching bands, helium balloons, floats and other attractions — costs about $150,000 annually. Boston Store, whose parent company The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy and is liquidating, was a major sponsor for the last decade.

Aside from a lack of funding, DeGrace Spaeth said, several factors culminated in a “perfect storm” this year, including vendor changes, downtown construction and route logistics.

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“There is a lot of great construction going on in Milwaukee and the landscape of Milwaukee is changing but it does present kind of an issue when you’re trying to put on a parade and you stage and de-stage in various locations,” DeGrace Spaeth said.

DeGrace Spaeth said her family has been seeking a new organizer for the parade, but hasn’t found one.

It is possible new sponsors and organizers could come forward to save the parade.

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“We think it’s time for somebody new to come in and change the face of the parade and potentially make it their own …. our hope is somebody will do that,” DeGrace Spaeth said.

The parade has traditionally been held on the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving. Organizers noted that it has been postponed only once in its history, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.

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