Cincinnati is an old city, full of history and traditions and buildings dating back more than a century. But organizations that go back that far and that remain bedrocks of our community are a little more rare.
In 2019, three local institutions reach major anniversaries: The Cincinnati Reds franchise marks 150 years in operation, The Christ Hospital observes its 130th anniversary and the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade is 100 years old.
And we think these historic milestones all worth celebrating.
Opening Day, of course, is an unofficial holiday in the Queen City, and has been for decades. The Reds’ status as the first Major League Baseball team has ensured that they have always opened the season at home. They’ve only played the first game of the seaons on the road once — in 1888. Only the Reds are guaranteed a home season opener.
The Opening Day Parade began in 1890, organized by the team strictly as a way to promote attendance at the game. The early years of the parade consisted of streetcars filled with the Reds and their Opening Day opponent and a marching band.
But in the early 1900s, the fans started getting in on the festivities. When the Reds decided to stop leading the parade in 1902, fans organized themselves in “rooters groups” of neighbors, business employees and social clubs. In this era, the parade was a loose collection of these groups that would gather someplace Downtown not too far from the ballpark in the West End, perhaps hoist a pint, and walk or ride in horse-drawn wagons to the ballpark. In his book “How One Game Became Cincinnati’s Baseball Holiday,” Cincinnati Reds team historian Greg Rhodes calls the gatherings “one large roving tailgate party."
So, how did the parade get its connection to Findlay Market? What do fresh poultry and produce have to do with baseball, anyway?
According to Rhodes, “In 1920, the Findlay Market rooters group joined the festivities, and soon became the biggest and best organized of all the groups. The rooters group tradition slowly faded away, but the Findlay Market delegation remained active.”
Market business owners and employees continued walking to the ballpark, stopping at a watering hole or two along the way. They also initiated the tradition of presenting the Reds manager with a large bouquet of flowers at home plate before the game, a tradition that continues today.
It makes sense that Findlay Market would be a hub for the Opening Day festivities, as the Reds’ ballpark was located about eight blocks away, at the intersection of Findlay Street and Western Avenue (that’s pretty much where I-75 now crosses Findlay Street).
By the 1930s, it had become popularly known as the Findlay Market Parade. Ever since, it’s been organized by a volunteer group of Market merchants who coordinate the entries, manage the parade route and work with the Reds to arrange a Grand Marshal and other notables to participate.
This isn’t your fancy Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with lavish floats and singing celebrities; it’s totally homegrown and totally Cincinnati. Local businesses and organizations, from the Cincinnati Zoo and the public library, to roofing companies and food brands, from police and fire brigades to high school bands — on flatbed trucks with homemade signs — make the parade a truly Queen City production. A group from The Christ Hospital is excited to march down the parade route to highlight our 130-year anniversary.
It seems like the whole city plays hooky (kids skip school if spring break doesn’t coincide, but we won’t tell) and comes out to view the parade or to find a seat from which to watch the game. The Findlay Market Parade and Reds Opening Day mark a grand beginning: of a baseball season, of spring, of warmer weather and a return to the outdoors. To learn more about the fresh and healthy food offerings at Findlay Market, check out this video with Bryn.