America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gears up for another run

November 24, 2011
Woodward Ave.,
Cost: Free

When you’re watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade make its way down Woodward on Nov. 24, do you ever wonder what all goes into the event? How about some 1,500 volunteers working year-round designing, constructing and organizing at least 75 parade units, including floats, balloons and marching bands?

Working out of the old 10,000-square-foot Huber Avenue factory in Detroit, The Parade Company’s volunteers design, sew, weld, paint and construct parade floats, costumes and “big heads” year-round. The warehouse, located at 9500 Mount Elliott, is a maze of floats in various stages of construction.

There are year-after-year staples like Santa’s workshop, along with new floats like Art Van’s “Be What You Dream to Be” float and PNC’s “Grow Up Great” float, all in accordance with the 85th annual parade’s theme, “So Much to Believe In.”

Some of the floats are on multiple trailers linked together, and some even need to be disassembled to get through the door and out onto Woodward Avenue. For example, a float of The Three Little Pigs has a chimney that comes off and is reattached for the parade, which starts at 9:20 on Thanksgiving and is aired on WDIV Local 4 and on WJR 760 AM.

There’s also a collection of some 300 “big heads” – which to some can seem a little creepy all lined up in the warehouse. Representing a range of characters and well-known personalities, these huge paper mache heads are worn by volunteers who actually pay to wear them while walking in the parade. The money goes toward their upkeep and creation each year.

What’s interesting to see is the large sewing room, with small windows through which visitors can see the many sewing machines, volunteers and materials needed to make all the costumes for the parade. It’s truly a first-rate production and wonderful showcase of Detroit.

Tours of The Parade Co. are available for groups of 10 or more. The cost is $8 for children ages 3 to 17 and $12 for adults. Visit for more information.

There’s also a special open house on Nov. 26 called “A Day in Paradeland.” The Parade Company will open its doors for viewing of the many floats in the 85th Thanksgiving Day Parade. The event will also include entertainment from Radio Disney, a Santa photo station, face painting, crafts and more. Admission is free, food and activity tickets are $1 each, and photos with Santa are $5 each.

For more information about The Parade Company, visit