Rain can’t dampen Houston’s mood for the Thanksgiving parade

Despite occasional, literal downpours, metaphorically nothing could rain on Houston’s parade.

The 73rd annual H.E.B. Thanksgiving Day Parade drew thousands—if not the usual packed crowd—to downtown and drenched them when sudden storms sent attendees momentarily wavering between umbrellas and the underhangs of buildings in the central business district.

“If it gets bad, we’ll leave,” said Al Diaz, 43, his two school-aged children by his side. “I’m not put off by a little rain.”

The annual parade has been skipped for the past two years. Officials canceled it in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and last year they pulled the plug due to high winds.

Paradegoers said the rain couldn’t cancel their plans, but made their preparations a bit more tedious. In Houston for a family visit, Charlotte DeBois, 55, of Beaumont, said she brought an umbrella and a raincoat because being the first entrant she wasn’t sure what would work better.

Not showing up was not a thought, she said.

“It’s too crowded in that house,” DeBois joked about her family’s gathering. “I had to get off somewhere.”

Officials said the parade would go on “rain or shine” and meant it. The festivities started around 9am and continued despite the skies opening up at times. Officials had previously said only lightning or heavy rain would stop the parade, which Mayor Sylvester Turner wanted to see return after the two-year absence.

“It’s a time for families to celebrate and give thanks and he wants to make it happen,” spokeswoman Mary Benton said earlier this week.

The participants were in a similar state of mind, they said, after months of homeschooling, then the stresses of life and students’ return to school.

“Sometimes you just need a break from all that and a little fun,” said Margaret Black, as she wrestled with her three kids, ages 3 to 7.

Justin Anzaldua, 30, secured arguably the best free seat along the route and prepared for the parade by parking his pickup in the closed streets. When the street was closed, he simply backed up behind a police car, grabbed some blankets and camping chairs, and organized his own viewing party for family and friends.

“It was a 50-50 chance,” Anzaldua, a North Side resident, said of the storms.

As the rain fell and then lessened in intensity, his crew remained in place and cheered on the parade.

Nearby, 4-year-old Crosby Polk let out his loudest cry for the two things he easily recognized: the Houston Astros mascot Orbit and then Thomas the Tank Engine.

“Thomas made it for him,” said his father, Omar Polk, 23.

For others, just being there was the reward, sharing in a Houston tradition. Emmanuel Mkandawire and his family usually travel to Arizona for the holidays and had never been to the parade despite living in Houston for nearly 20 years. This year, the risk of rain couldn’t keep him away.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, but I felt good about it,” Mkandawire, 44, said.

He said he checked the weather at 4 a.m. and decided to drive down from Cypress with his wife and teenage daughter, umbrellas and coats at the ready.

Enjoying the holidays, he said, is important.

“With all the things that have happened, it’s important for people to unite,” Mkandawire said. “It’s just good to be a part of being together.”

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