The Degrace family took great pride in organizing the Milwaukee parade since 1953, and the decision to retire from both the parade and their work was not easy for them. One of the reasons for the consistent success of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade over the years has been the significant support the event received from the community as well as the dedicated attendees who never missed a single event.
The Degrace family who have led the parade for several years with the support and assistance of fifty longtime volunteers, cited reduced financial resources, downtown construction, vendor changes, as well as route logistics as the main reasons why they would no longer be organizing the event. The culmination of all these events made it infeasible to maintain the Milwaukee Holiday Parade at the level its legacy deserves.
Sponsors of 2017’s edition of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade included, among others, the Boston Store which would later file for bankruptcy and cease its operations in 2018. In 2018, the DeGrace family did not receive sufficient financial funds to organize the Milwaukee Holiday Parade. In 2017, the event’s organizers had also struggled to raise the necessary funds. In recent years, the fundraising goal has been one hundred and fifty thousand, which is the minimum amount needed to host the event in its traditional format that features live television with more than one hundred marching bands units, specialty vehicles, costumed characters, live animals, local personalities, floats, giant helium balloons, and much more. Development and construction across Milwaukee along the staging areas and parade route also added to the logistic challenges.
In their announcement of the parade’s closure, the DeGrace siblings stated that maintaining the legacy of their father was the focal point of their endeavors since he passed in 1995. For several years they were able to do that, but as they grew older, and with the various changes in the landscape, financial support, it became more challenging to host the Milwaukee Holiday Parade in its traditional form, which was the legacy and standard they had strived to uphold since they took over the mantle from their father. However, the event organizers expressed their wish that another holiday and group parade would take form in Milwaukee. Traditionally, the Milwaukee Holiday Parade has been hosted on the Saturday morning preceding Thanksgiving Day. Throughout the history of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade, the event has only been postponed once on 22nd November 1963, following the assassination of J. F. Kennedy.
Although the Milwaukee Holiday Parade has not been held for some years now, the legacy of the parade lives on. Millions of people who have attended the event in the years preceding its closure still have fond memories from the annual event. It is not clear whether the DeGrace family may decide to re-introduce the event in the foreseeable future, or whether a new parade of its kind will take form. However, if it does it is something that will be highly welcome.