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'Plan for the worst, but hope for the best' | Excitement, precautions build for Charlotte's Thanksgiving parade

Just days after a parade turned deadly in Wisconsin, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they're prepared for a safe parade the night before Thanksgiving.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says they're prepared for Novant Health's 75th Annual Thanksgiving Parade on Wednesday night in Uptown, with boosted security measures after the tragedy in a holiday parade in Wisconsin. 

"We plan for the worst but hope for the best in everything we do," Lt. Dondi Pogue with CMPD said.

The department is boosting its presence in Uptown for the parade that will kick off at 6 p.m. 

"There will be more than enough officers there," Pogue said. "You shouldn't be able to take a few steps without seeing a CMPD officer out there tonight."

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Barricades, police cruisers, and vehicle mitigation barriers will block off the parade route and some cross streets that stretch from 11th Street, down South Tryon Street to East Morehead Street. 

The added security comes in the wake of the parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where police say a man drove through the festivities, killing six people and injuring dozens more. 

"The tragedy in Wisconsin is a reminder for us all how events can take a deadly turn," Pogue said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

Police are also asking for the public's help in an effort to keep families safe.

"If you see something -- say something," Pogue said. 

Pogue noted people should be aware of their surroundings, alerting police if they see any suspicious items or packages, or cars parked in restricted areas for the parade. 

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Thousands of people are expected to head into Uptown for the parade, that's being held the night before Thanksgiving this year. 

"A lot of businesses in the Uptown have really suffered because of the lockdowns and COVID restrictions," explained Moriah Quinn with Charlotte Center City Partners, the group that organizes the event year after year. "A lot of businesses will be open tonight and people will be out so they can eat, they can go shopping."

For Larry Wynn, who works for East Coast Concessions, it finally means selling merchandise to parade-goers again. 

"We really suffered in 2020," he said as he talked about the hardships canceled events brought to his business. 

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"This year has been like amazing just because everybody -- that cabin fever kind of thing -- most events we work they come out in droves," he added. 

More than 3,500 volunteers have helped to put on the event. It will include hundreds of people, 12 floats with new lights on each one, and a dozen area marching bands. 

There are two grand marshals: Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles will be one of them, while an honorary grand marshal will go to Dr. David Priest with Novant Health.

Organizers said he was selected to give thanks to our frontline workers who have sacrificed so much while working hard through the pandemic.

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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