Community | Events | Opinion

Too early to think about Thanksgiving in Detroit?

The short answer, of course not. This Thanksgiving though comes with a number of milestones that could change the city and the metro area for generations to come. Between the parade and the Lion’s game, Thanksgiving in Detroit has been more than just a kick off to the holiday shopping season or the symbolic celebration of new found freedom. It is an annual reminder that we are in it together and we should be thankful for the opportunity to share in the tradition.

It is going to be the first year where the M-1 rail line will make a presence and will be a feature of the parade route from now on. Just as the balloons have to duck under the People Mover, the laid tracks the floats will have to ride along are going to serve as a reminder. It is a reminder of this time right now. The upcoming Thanksgiving, like others in Detroit’s history, is a time for people to stop and watch. Yet, this year is a pivot point of possibility.

Another budding landmark along the parade route is the just started construction of the new Red Wings arena and entertainment district. This will complete a triangle of landmark property owned and developed by the historic Ilitch family, which has seen their share of push back in the way the new arena was funded. Either way opinion may fall on the issue, the parade route changes again.

And although the city is still in bankruptcy proceedings, this year’s parade watchers have seen the DIA art collection in a tug of war, powers restored back to the democratically elected officials, and water shutoffs that threatened the social thread of the greater community. There are many impact decisions being made by those entrusted with the power of the people. It is, though, the decisions made by the individuals along the parade route, watching at home from across the nation, and even those who are not watching that will either pivot the possibility toward a bright future or the re-imagined doldrums of the past.

Will there be children at a Red Wings game years from now telling how she or he saw the arena being built year by year while standing along Woodward during the Thanksgiving Day Parade? Might there be a stronger sense of appreciation when looking at the DIA? Or even a greater sense of pride while riding the M-1 rail as a commuter?

It is fitting that the parade winds down Woodward where east side meets west side and how the city connects with the greater metro area. It has always done so and presumably will continue. It is called Woodward from Jefferson to Pontiac and designated Michigan’s number one highway. If there was ever a time for Detroiters to reconsider the attitudes, emotions, and outlooks, this is as good as any.

Thanksgiving in Detroit is day that allows the community to be reminded of what is possible. It is a time to focus on how this Thanksgiving will be remembered and how following Thanksgivings will be remembered. It can be another year, another parade, and another game, or it can be a moment in a series of moments to be remembered as the time people launched off the big decisions rather than deny the positive possibility. It is not a call to submit to every change, nor is it a demand for people to silence on every issue. Yet, it is a cry for all people to see Detroit as advancing not away from the past, but embracing it. How will the everyday decisions change the discussion about Detroit by the next Thanksgiving?

Paul Ruth
Paul obtained a M.A. in English from Marygrove College and is a high school English teacher at East Detroit High School and adjunct college English instructor. He has been published in various places around the web, and seeks to write on topics that impact the greater community.