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Yes, the Raleigh Christmas Parade actually comes before Thanksgiving. Here’s why.

There are a lot of things parade-goers love about the Raleigh Christmas Parade, but the parade’s pre-Thanksgiving spot on the calendar isn’t one of them.

The complaints about the timing of the parade – happening this Saturday in downtown Raleigh – are as much a holiday tradition as the Santa float that closes the procession.

Here’s the official reason for that early start:

It’s all about shopping. Shocking, right?

The Greater Raleigh Merchants Association has always put on the parade, and what do merchants want? They want you to shop. And when you start thinking about Christmas shopping, they want you to think about shopping at their local stores.

And a parade that wouldn’t happen until after Black Friday would mean they lose some of that big jump-start on holiday shopping.

It’s been that way every year since 1939, with the exception of a few years without the parade during World War II.

And it’s not likely to change because of a little complaining. (It also used to be held at night, so if you get tired of complaining about the time of year, you can switch to the time of day.)

Brooke Cain: 919-829-4579, @brookecain

The 2017 Christmas Parade

This year’s parade – officially branded as the 2017 ABC11/LeithCars.com Raleigh Christmas Parade presented by Shop Local Raleigh – is the 73rd in Raleigh’s history.

The Raleigh Christmas Parade always takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year’s parade takes place on Saturday.

Tom Llamas, chief national correspondent and anchor of ABC News “World News Tonight” weekend editions, will ride on the ABC11 float along with local anchors and personalities.

ABC11 is also hosting a Holiday Food Drive that will be going on during the parade. Parade-goers who bring three or more cans of food will get a Zaxby’s coupon. The station also will partner with the U.S. Postal Service to collect letters to Santa at the ABC11 Winter Village at the courthouse on Fayetteville Street. The Winter Village will also have an Elfie Selfie station, with an elf available for photos. Food donations can be dropped there as well.

The 1.4-mile parade route begins on Hillsborough Street at St. Mary’s Street and proceeds to the State Capitol, where it turns right onto Salisbury and then left on Morgan before proceeding down Fayetteville Street to Lenoir Street.

Parade controversy

The parade has been in the news more than usual this year because of a fight over official broadcast rights. First, WRAL, the official sponsor for 43 years, lost the contract this year to rival WTVD, but said it plans to broadcast the parade anyway. Then the usual Santa was forced to resign because of a TV commercial. Then WRAL didn’t get a float in the parade. And now, lawyers are involved.

The parade, which typically attracts about 65,000 visitors to downtown, reaches up to 250,000 people over TV and online broadcasts, according to the merchants association. It will air on WTVD/ABC11 from 10 a.m. to noon, and on WRAL from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

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