Santa Claus arrives in downtown Dayton during the  Rike's Toy  Parade. The Thanksgviving Day event was held in Dayton from 1923 to 1942. The annual tradition ended when World War II began. RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Photo: RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Photo: RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Thanksgiving parades aren’t just for Macy’s! The Rike’s Toy Parade was an early Dayton Thanksgiving tradition 

The parade was held Thanksgiving Day for two decades

For nearly two decades beginning in the 1920s, the downtown Dayton department store Rike’s held a Thanksgiving Day parade. 

The Rike’s Toy Parade began in 1923, kicking off the holiday shopping season. Floats designed by high school students in art classes and costumed characters made up the procession. 

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Rike's Humpty Dumpty family is part of the 1935 Rike's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Dayton. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION
Photo: COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORY CONNECTION

Early black-and-white photographs capture the parade route, beginning at the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds and traveling along Main Street through downtown. Spectators clogged sidewalks and filled the windows of downtown buildings overlooking the spectacle. 

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The floats and costumes became more elaborate through the years drawing crowds from Dayton and surrounding communities. Artists worked well in advance designing costumes and carpenters and painters spent weeks building floats. 

Dayton's Rike's Department Store held a Thanksgving Day Parade in Dayton from 1923 to 1942. The annual tradition ended when World War II began. RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Photo: RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

In 1935, Princess Sari, a life sized-puppet, rode her royal elephant Jumbo through the streets. The animated and gilded beast was propelled by four men underneath as she was followed by costumed escorts. 

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A 15-foot-tall Mother Goose joined the parade the same year as did “Simple Simon and his Pieman, The Three Bears, Goldie Locks and giant figures of Lean Jack Spratt and Fat Mrs. Spratt,” according to the Dayton Daily News. 

 

Mickey Mouse, the Katzenjammer Kids, Barney Google, Moon Mullins and other favorite characters from comic strips and movies of the era filled the streets. 

The highlight each year was Santa Claus and his merry elves, who rode into Dayton on a “throne of snow and ice.” 

Dayton's Rike's Department Store held a Thanksgving Day Parade in Dayton from 1923 to 1942. The annual tradition ended when World War II began. RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Photo: RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Santa was handed the keys to the city before climbing a tall ladder to a brick chimney on top of the men’s store, according to the account in the 1935 edition of the newspaper. From there he descended the chimney into his “glorious Toyland in Rike’s.” 

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The start of World War II ended the holiday tradition. The company did not want to take resources from the efforts to win the war and placed an ad in the Nov. 10, 1943 edition of the newspaper stating the “War Effort must come FIRST!” 

“So, Boys and Girls, Mother’s and Fathers, and all who have enjoyed Rike’s Toy Parade — because we feel that winning the war comes first, RIKE’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE WILL NOT BE HELD THIS YEAR!”

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