Characters walking down the street at the 1935 Rike’s Toy Parade in downtown Dayton (photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection)
Ohio Life

The Rike’s Toy Parade Tradition​

Between 1923 and 1942, Dayton’s Rike-Kumler Co. department store hosted a colorful parade through the city to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Beginning in 1923, a year before Macy’s famous holiday parade took its first steps, the inaugural Rike-Kumler Co. Thanksgiving Day parade brought thousands of people to the streets of downtown Dayton to enjoy the colorful spectacle of life-size toys and comic book characters, creative floats and the arrival of old Saint Nick himself. The 1930 celebration was memorable for not only the parade itself but also the blistering cold weather that spectators endured.

“Despite the fact that yesterday was the coldest Thanksgiving Day on record, thousands of men, women and children lined the curbs of downtown Dayton for more than two hours while Rike’s Toy Town parade passed in review,” the Dayton Daily News reported in its Nov. 28, 1930, edition.

For the 1935 parade, Dayton’s Main Street was temporarily transformed into “Toytown Highway,” as beloved characters like Mother Goose, Jumbo, Minnie and Mickey Mouse and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sprat stepped off from the Montgomery County Fairgrounds at 10 a.m., while Santa traded in his sleigh for a throne of ice that year.

“Elaborate preparations had been made for this year’s event and as the gaily costumed characters moved along, the older persons evidenced as much enthusiastic pleasure as did the children,” the Dayton Daily News reported in its Nov. 29, 1935, edition.

By the time Rike’s Toy Parade reached what would be its final year in 1942, it had taken on a more patriotic tone following the United States’ entry into World War II. The Dayton Herald reported in its Nov. 25, 1942, edition that, “patriotism will be manifest throughout the colorful parade, popular characters from American history being introduced in a campaign as an inspiration to buy more war bonds and stamps.”

The parade that year included a reenactment of the midnight ride of Paul Revere as well as Betsy Ross and her Colonial maidens stitching the first American flag. But it would take more than World War to keep Santa from making an appearance in Dayton.

“No pre-Christmas parade would be complete even in wartimes, and that worthy gentleman will bring up the rear, riding in his golden sleigh pulled by eight white reindeer leaping over the housetops.”