[UPDATE: On August 13, Mayor Annise Parker announced that the Thanksgiving Parade will be held after all, thanks in part to over $400,000 in donations from the private sector. The Houston Festival Foundation is no longer involved in the parade.]
A 64-year-old Houston tradition is in danger after the Houston Festival Foundation's announcement this afternoon that it will no longer produce the city's Thanksgiving Day parade (known officially as the Holiday Parade). The first parade took place in 1949, with Santa riding a sleigh from Union Station to the former Foley's downtown department store. Last year, over 400,000 people attended the Holiday Parade, with more than 2 million more watching on television.
According to a press release, the HFF will stop producing the parade in order to focus on its other major annual event, the Houston International Festival: "Due to the rising costs associated with producing the annual parade event, the foundation's board made the difficult decision to end its production of the Holiday Parade, which has traditionally taken place in Downtown Houston on Thanksgiving Day."
In a statement released to the press, Mayor Annise Parker criticized the HFF's decision: "I am disappointed HFF is having financial difficulties and is walking away from producing the annual holiday parade and has sold all of the event's assets," Parker said. "I personally want to see it continue. Discussions are already underway by various parties to see whether the parade can be saved."
H-E-B, which has sponsored the parade since 2007, released a statement expressing its disappointment that the HFF "has liquidated its parade assets and chose [to] no longer produce the annual parade [...] we are hopeful a producer will be identified to continue this long standing Houston tradition."
Not everyone is unhappy with the HFF. Marie Jacinto, the director of communications for the Houston Arts Alliance, which provides grants that support the HFF, said that her organization "applauds [the HFF's] decision to focus on their core mission, which is to produce the Houston International Festival each spring. It's important for them to make that festival possible."
Lindsey Brown, the director of marketing and communication for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she was not aware of the HFF's decision. "It would have been interesting for them to send that to us," Brown said.