A couple years ago my office went to The Parade Company for a staff meeting. I hadn’t been to the parade in years and it was fascinating to see everything up close. The warehouse displays dozens of floats that are used each year and visitors can get a preview of the latest additions as they are being built. It’s a fun activity and I thought Mom would enjoy it. We ended up making a day of Detroit activity and Adam came along for the fun. The Parade Company is a non-profit that organizes America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Woodward Avenue. The tradition started in 1924 and is as much a part of Detroiters’ Thanksgiving plans as the Lions game. Rain, sleet, snow or sunshine the parade goes on every year.* Chris and Emily volunteer as balloon holders, others donate to walk in the parade as clowns or big heads (see below), and I didn’t realize until recently that Granny goes downtown every year to watch. I’ll admit that for the past decade I’ve enjoyed the parade from the comfort of my couch. This year I’ll be busy in the kitchen but next year I’ll bundle up for the adventure!
Our tour was especially enjoyable because we had a great tour guide. John did a fantastic job blending fun facts and interesting stories. He was friendly and engaging and I couldn’t help but ask him a few questions. What year did you first attend the parade? My first year seeing the parade was when I was a freshman at Wayne State University in 1956. I’ve either watched the parade [on tv] or attended it every year. Since then I have had a family. I have four grandsons – my son and my daughter each have two – and they come to the parade every year. How did you get involved with the Parade Company? I have volunteered at Cranbrook, the Detroit Zoo, the DIA, the Riverfront Conservancy and a number of other things. I stumbled on the Parade Company as a volunteer after many years ushering at the Fisher, FOX and Opera House. This is where I’ve settled down as a volunteer. What’s your favorite parade memory? A warm, sunny day in about 1960. We were all trying to figure out how to get rid of clothes rather than how to put on more. What’s your favorite float? I’m partial to the bookworm or now the laptopworm* because I was an English major and I think people underestimate the power of literature. Mother Goose is cool, Dorothy and the land of Oz is cool but the Bookworm says a lot for things we need to do, rather than what we always want to.
These guys creep Danny out. They’re original Big Heads. The Parade Company used to order them from Italy and return them after the parade. When they learned they were destroyed each year, they asked if they could keep them. The supplier agreed and sent over an artist to train the Parade Company to make their own (see below).
*Except for a couple years during World War II **This year the book was replaced with a computer