Opening Day marks not only the return of Major League Baseball, but of one of the game’s most time-honored traditions. This year, Cincinnati will once again celebrate the beginning of a new season for the Reds with the Findlay Market Parade, which is baseball’s signature Opening Day Parade.
As one of baseball’s oldest and most storied cities, Cincinnati has long made Opening Day an all-day event. The Findlay Market Parade has been held every year since 1920, but the effort to make Opening Day a citywide celebration dates back to 1891, when team owner John T. Brush organized the first parade. That, along with aggressive promotion over ensuing years by business manager John Bancroft, allowed the festivities to continue expanding throughout Cincinnati. Over a period of decades, the parade has grown to a full-fledged celebration that has included elaborate floats, elephants from the Cincinnati Zoo, and a grand marshal that is significant to the history of the Reds.
The Reds have traditionally opened in Cincinnati, with the most recent exception being in 1990, when MLB’s lockout delayed the start of the season, effectively moving the team’s opener to the Astrodome. Starting in 1970, the Reds hosted the first game in the National League for 14 of 16 seasons. Eventually, ESPN’s television contract with MLB that granted the network the season’s first game would circumvent that tradition, but the spirits have never been tempered in Cincinnati.
On April 4, Findlay Market Parade will run for the 97th consecutive season. As it traditionally has, the parade route will start at Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine and run straight down Race Street, before turning on 5th street and making its way to the Taft Theatre.
This year’s grand marshal will be Lou Pinella, whose place in Cincinnati baseball history was cemented when he managed the Reds to a World Series Title in 1990. The parade is scheduled to begin at noon, allowing plenty of time for fans to get settled in at Great American Ballpark before the Reds face the Philadelphia Phillies at 4:10.
The staying power of this tradition has been impressive, especially given that most major league cities opt to celebrate Opening Day with smaller-scale street festivals rather than full-blown parades. It has also helped give Cincinnati some vibrancy on Opening Day, regardless of how up or down the expectations are for the Reds as the season begins.
Along the parade, there will be plenty of events in and around Cincinnati that take place either before or during the game. Washington Park—which is along the parade route—will once again host a party that features live music, family activities, and numerous food and drink options, including wine and beer. That festival begins at 11:00 a.m. and runs through 7:00 p.m. In addition, Fountain Square will host its annual Reds Rally, and various Cincinnati bars and restaurants will have specials throughout the day.
These events all add to the experience, but the parade is perhaps the most distinct element to Cincinnati, as it helps make the city synonymous with the beginning of the baseball season.