It would be easy to quickly think of the Macy’s Parade, but actually, Peoria, Illinois, has the longest running Santa Claus parade in the United States. 1887 marked the first year of the parade, which consisted of various floats and boats and barges coming down the river to celebrate the completion of the new bridge. Santa was the main attraction, arriving on one of the barges.
The following year the parade moved to land and traced a route through town. Thereafter, the red-suited guest of honor rode through town in a horse-drawn carriage, on a Mother Goose float or atop on a 12-foot gilded circus wagon.
For the first 72 years of the parade, it was sponsored by the Schipper and Block Department Store of Peoria. During that time, the event grew to 3,000 participants and included a 43-pipe calliope, fireworks and floats constructed by store employees. The parade traditionally ended with Santa climbing a fire escape ladder and disappearing through a fifth-story window into the store’s toy department. http://americanprofile.com/articles/americas-longest-running-christmas-parade/
The Peoria parade provided a model for the department store Christmas parades that arose in larger cities. In 1905 Eaton’s Department Store started the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. In 1920 Gimbels Department Store started the Philadelphia Christmas parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924, and the same year the J.L. Hudson Company staged its first Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, Michigan.