by: Sarah Rosario Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Thousands of people came out to Charlotte's 65th annual Belk Carolina's Carrousel Parade. It's a holiday tradition for many but its future could be on the line since Belk pulled its funding. Despite that, organizers said they believe the parade will roll next year like it always has.
"We don't believe that it will be the last year. We are very confident that other members of the business community will step up and support this vital tradition," said Carrousel Executive Director Linda Healy Vespa.
Organizing this parade is a year round project for Linda Vespa. While the parade it a tradition for many families it's also known for its scholarships.
This year, 12 teenagers were awarded scholarships. Eyewitness News spoke to one recipient who said she wants to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"I hope that it will help me buy books, so I can do my best and get my degree," said Elizabeth Brewer.
The scholarships are funded by Carrousel and sponsors like Belk. Organizers say the parade costs close to $200,000, a big portion of which is provided by Belk. The department chain pulled its funding for next year over the summer. Despite that, Vespa said that doesn't mean next year's parade is off the table.
About 130 units rolled as part of the parade, 14 marching bands and 25 floats, including North and South Carolina Miss America pageants and queen representative from each decade for the past 50 years. Another special guest was three-time Olympic medalist Ricky Berens. He also graduated from South Mecklenburg High School.
"My whole family, we're big parade people. We've just never been to this one but it was so cool to actually be in it," Berens said.
Without this parade, families say Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same.
"This is something that we do on a yearly basis. We would be very saddened. Guess we'd have to find some money to go to New York, Macy's Day parade," Leona Bost said.
Organizers wouldn't say who, but told us several businesses have shown interest in being a sponsor but none have committed.