In 1929, a fantastic Richmond holiday tradition was born: the Christmas Toy Parade. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, crowds gathered on Broad Street to watch floats, bands, clowns, and drill teams herald the arrival of the holiday season. The highlight of the parade? Giant gas-filled balloons depicting different characters each year: Snow White, Smokey Bear, Peter Pan, Jack Sprat, Snoopy, a gorilla, a dragon, Frankenstein, and even a 150-foot train.
Sponsored by Thalhimer’s Department Stores, the parade always ended at its downtown store on Richmond’s main thoroughfare. It was at this point on the parade route that Santa Claus climbed into the store’s second-story window, announcing his readiness to hear the Christmas wishes of every boy and girl.
With only a short hiatus during World War II, the Toy Parade became so popular that officials estimated 100,000 spectators attended the 1968 festivities. In 1973, however, the parade was cancelled due to shifting concerns of its sponsor. Richmond would not have another Christmas parade until 1985, when the Jaycees and Best Products (a popular Richmond-based retailer of the time) revived the tradition.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection,
The Valentine, November 23, 1965
V.66.10.203 photograph by Amir Pishdad
V.66.10.207 photograph by Rich Crawford
P.71.37.125 photograph by Joseph Colognori
P.71.37.126 photograph unattributed