Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Evening Out Formal Wear
Heritage Barbershop

Turkey Day Classic Parade, full of pageantry

David Campbell
The Grand Marshal for the 2023 Turkey Day Classic Parade, the Waters Family, smiled radiantly as their float moved down Dexter Avenue. The Waters family was chosen as the Grand Marshal because of the untimely death of Kenneth Waters, who was the former organizer of the Turkey Day Classic Parade.

Before Alabama State University and Tuskegee University alumni, students, fans and friends “chow down” on turkey and settle into the Alabama State University Stadium to watch the football game, hundreds of people were lined up in Montgomery, Alabama on Dexter Avenue to witness the annual Turkey Day Classic Parade on Thursday, Nov. 23. 

The annual pageantry of floats, cheerleaders, marching bands, politicians, is one of the best HBCU events in November.  This year’s parade featured 150 entries, 26 floats, 52 automobiles, and 12 marching bands and began at 9:05 a.m.

Anchors Rosanna Smith and Sally Pitts from WSFA-TV served as commentators for the parade, a first for the Turkey Day Classic Parade.

The First Family of Alabama State University make their presence known as they greet all onlookers of the 2023 Turkey Day Classic Parade.

“This is our first time doing it,” Smith said. “It’s exciting seeing the different bands, and just seeing the entire community come together to have a fantastic time on Thanksgiving Day.”

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High profile politicians such as Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, City Councilor Marche Johnson, State Sen. Merika Coleman, and State Rep. Penni McClammy made appearances in the parade.

Former organizer of the Turkey Day Classic, Kenneth Waters, who died on May 26, was honored by having his immediate family members serve as the grand marshals for the parade.

Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Jessica Madison, felt the parade was a success.

“With just over 150 entries, including so many new faces, this year’s Turkey Day Classic parade created a tremendous atmosphere as we celebrated the  Classic”s 99th year,” Madison said. “And being able to honor our dear colleague and beloved Hornet, Kenneth Waters, was truly the icing on the cake. Between having his beautiful family serving as our Parade Marshals to the phenomenal volunteers who adored him, without a shadow of a doubt we know he was smiling down on us. We can’t wait to celebrate the 100th next year.”

Alabama State University is always the first university to be represented in the parade, and this year was no different as the Mighty Marching Hornets, WVAS-FM 90.7 radio station, Golden Ambassadors, Student Government Association, Miss Alabama State University and her Royal Court, Cheerleaders, Student Orientation Services Leaders, as well as the National Alumni Association and the university president were featured.

“This tradition is almost 100 years old,” President Quinton T. Ross Jr Ed.D. said. “Of course with these two historic universities, Alabama State University and Tuskegee University, it’s just a tradition that has grown with family, friends, and this entire community. So everyone looks forward to getting together on Thanksgiving morning to enjoy this wonderful parade, and of course it’s a wonderful day today.”

For some parade participants, such as the captain of the Alabama State University cheerleaders, Jon Curbi Blake, this will be his last time performing with the his fellow cheerleaders in the Turkey Day Classic parade.

“It’s been a great experience; it’s super cold though,” Blake said. “But other than that, I’m just happy to be here. I’m just ready to get the game done so that we can get to this Thanksgiving dinner.”

He continued.

“I know my cheer squad is going to do great today because we made sure that we had them more than prepared for today, but in the future I think they’re going to do a wonderful job. We set the foundation for them to be great, so now all they have to do is pave the way for themselves.”

Talia Johnson is a fellow cheerleader and senior getting ready to leave the Hornets’ nest. Both her mother and her father attended the university, so it’s a tradition for her to attend Turkey Day festivities.

“I have mixed emotions,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m happy, I’m sad, I might cry, you know, all of the above, but overall I’m really excited for today.”

Despite not attending the university herself, both of Val Lyons’ parents graduated from the university in the 70s.

President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D., and Stinger stopped along the way to take photos with fans from Tuskegee University alumni, friends and fans. (David Campbell)

“I’m not an every year parader but I do try to come as often as I can,” Lyons said. “Of course, we love to see the Mighty Marching Hornets and all of the high school bands that participate in the parade. And it’s a good time to just fellowship with family and you make friends along the parade route, laughing and talking with the people that are next to you.”

Junior Jayshel Beard who also participated in the parade as a member of the Student Orientation Services (SOS) Leaders thought it was amazing to be able to get out in the community and walk for a cause.

“This tradition is important because it’s just a big event where people get to come together as one,” Beard said. “No violence, just everybody coming out and having a good time.”

While the importance of the parade is something felt around Montgomery, people from across the South came to support their friends and family participating in the Turkey Day events, such as Margie McKinney who hails from Tallahassee, Florida.

“I have a nephew that goes to Tuskegee University,” McKinney said. “I’ve never been before so I want to see what it’s like. A Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a very good event, and it’s black colleges, and it’s on Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday.”

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