Unless someone steps up and steps in to organize a new parade, the annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade, a Milwaukee tradition for 92 years, will be no more.
Members of the DeGrace family announced they would retire from staging the annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade – launched in 1927 – which the family has produced for 65 years. There will be no parade this year.
Thanks to what Suzanne DeGrace Spaeth, the parade's producer, called "a perfect storm" of construction projects affecting the route, lack of funding (the now-bankrupt Boston Store was the event's major sponsor) and other issues, the family can no longer run the event.
"As difficult as this is, it's time for us to retire and for someone else to come in and make it their own," DeGrace Spaeth said.
According to DeGrace Spaeth, the parade had never been canceled during its 92-run, and was postponed only once, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
"The parade has been a part of my family since my father took it over in 1953," DeGrace Spaeth said, "and the decision to retire both our work and the parade was extremely difficult for me and my family. The massive community support and our many thousands of rain-or-shine attendees are the reasons we've continued the parade for all these years."
DeGrace Spaeth made the announcement Wednesday morning with her siblings John DeGrace and Kathleen DeGrace Neuberger on Plankinton and Wisconsin, just outside the building where their father had an office.
John DeGrace said that the City of Milwaukee asked the siblings to organize one final parade in 1995, the year George DeGrace died, in honor of their father.
"I guess we did such a good job we kept on going," he said, adding that the family never expected the parade to continue on for so many years after their father's passing.
"Maintaining our dad's legacy has been the focus since his passing in 1995," DeGrace Spaeth said. We have been able to do that for so many years, but now, as we're getting older, as the landscape changes and as the financial support grows more difficult, we simply can't operate the parade in its current form."
DeGrace Spaeth said about $150,000 is required to fund the parade, but DeGrace emphasized that the decision was not strictly related to money.
"The decision is both heartbreaking and bittersweet for my family," said DeGrace Spaeth. "The parade has gone on for 65 years longer than anyone thought it would, and I'm so proud of all of our generous sponsors and dedicated volunteers that have made the parade possible."
DeGrace Spaeth said that she and her siblings have been seeking someone to take over the parade since the week after last year's parade, which was held in November.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.