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Target Thanksgiving Parade, the venerable Chicago tradition that kicks off the holiday shopping season, is looking for horse units to join in the march down State Street on Thanksgiving Day morning.

The lure for horsemen to give up a part of their holiday is exposure to 90 million television homes across America, according to Joy A. Meierhans, a professional equestrian event producer who coordinates the equine division for Chicago Festival Association.

“With step off at 8:30 a.m. from Congress, disband at Randolph is less than a mile away...with everyone headed for home before noon,” Meierhans said, “so it’s not like we give up the whole day.” (All horse units stage and disband together along blocked-off, protected city streets.)

ABC’s Channel 7 in Chicago broadcasts live from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then rebroadcasts twice in December. Syndication takes the show national. This is the 69th holiday parade in Chicago and the fourth consecutive on Thanksgiving Day.

Parade organizers are inviting horse units of all types to participate. In years past, equestrian units have ranged from mounted drill teams to draft horses and wagons, from breed groups to rugged mountain men, Texas mules to miniature horses -- many in holiday-theme costumes.

“We’re looking for units that will bring color and excitement to the parade, Meierhans said. And every effort is made to locate close-in stabling for units that come from a distance, she said. All horses must have parade experience.

For information and applications for participation, call Joy Meierhans, equestrian coordinator, at (630) 557-2575, or Joe Fonzino, Chicago Festival Association, at (312) 781-5683. Deadline for application has been extended until all equestrian unit slots have been filled.

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