London New Year’s Day Parade

The things you do for your kids! When Londoners Bob Bone and his wife Geri found limited options for a New Year’s Day outing with their children back in 1986, with most museums, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and shops being closed and the streets empty, they decided to do something about it. And what better way to entertain the kiddies than take them to a parade. Especially one you’ve organized yourselves.

The Bones met with the then Lord Mayor of Westminster and exactly a year later on January 1st, 1987, the Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade debuted. I suppose “Mr. and Mrs. Bones Big Parade” didn’t sound quite right?

Regardless of whose name got top billing, the Parade, which featured 2,000 performers, was a huge hit. Now, 34 years on, the Parade is still going strong, albeit with a different name. In 1994 the Parade was renamed the London New Year’s Day Parade, better known to locals as LNYDP and this year’s parade featured over 10,000 participants.

Pearly Kings and Queens, West End show folk, acrobats, cheerleaders, marching bands, even Big Bird put in an appearance. Colorful dancers from Latin America appeared along with Tartan Clad pipe bands and a fleet of classic Aston Martin cars.

Not to be outdone by the James Bond squad, a group of classic American and cop car enthusiasts also participated in this year’s parade. All of their cars were original U.S. service vehicles that had been taken out of service, imported to the U.K. and loving restored by hand. Rolls Royce enthusiasts were catered to curtesy of the 25 stately vehicles that participated. Many of which had famous faces behind their wheels. Union Jack festooned Mini Coopers also honked their way through the streets, while trick motorcyclists helped keep the crowds entertained during the three and a half-hour long event.

Donkeys, dance schools and Dohl players. Miniature steam trains, an Italian percussion orchestra, All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men – well not quite, but one of the U.K.’s biggest equestrian groups, All the Queen’s Horses, were there in force, with 60 horses and 225 volunteers.

The Parade is broadcast live on TV stations around the world – including the U.S., whose high school and college marching bands are able to participate thanks to their fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Each year, various London boroughs are represented, all vying for a share in a cash prize to be awarded to their mayor’s charity of choice. Since that very first parade in 1987 the LNYDP has raised well over a million pounds for charity. Maybe the streets of London are paved with gold after all!