9500 Mt. Elliott Studio A
Detroit Michigan 48211United States
The Parade Company takes visitors behind the scenes year-round for a unique look at an enduring Thanksgiving tradition.
Everyone loves a parade, but few realize what it takes to put one on. A tour of The Parade Company takes visitors behind the scenes for some of Detroit's biggest events, especially the Thanksgiving day parade (the country's third largest, it's officially know as America's Parade). No matter the season, the brilliant colors and fanciful atmosphere in this old warehouse would put anyone in a festive mood. After a five-minute video, tours proceed through the costume area, where you'll see papier-mch character heads--the kinds parade marchers would wear over their own heads--ranging from pumpkins and penguins to a replicas of presidents. Then it's on to the countless floats--new floats, old floats and, best of all, floats being built. They're carefully constructed out of welded steel, chicken wire, muslin and Styrofoam. Lots of Styrofoam. You'll see artists drawing on giant chunks of foam, then cutting, sanding and painting. If you visit at the right time, you can see the steel structures being welded together. Also fascinating were the tiny cameras and monitors inside the floats so drivers can see where they're going. Admission is $12, which may seem a bit pricey, but it helps offset the corporate sponsorships and thousands of volunteer hours necessary to stage these big events. Kids leave with a clown nose and coloring book. A word of warning: The Parade Company is not in the best area and it's tricky to find. The building was once an auto manufacturing plant, so it's in an abandoned industrial park, and there is little to identify it except a tiny clown-face sign posted in a couple places. E-mail the company in advance for directions.