Creating a simply made but beautiful and meaningful parade float can be a challenging and time-consuming undertaking, but it can also be a very satisfying experience, and the results can be quite rewarding. Done with ingenuity and care, your float can represent your organization and its mission to your community in an unforgettable way, bring your group's volunteers together for a fun project, and bring joy and wonder to hundreds, if not thousands, of parade goers.
Things You'll Need
- Parade information packet
- Trailer or hay wagon
- Plywood and 2x4s
- Table saw or circular saw
- Staple gun
- Utility knife
- Carpenter's square
- Bucket of screws and nails
- Hot glue gun (and glue sticks)
- Boxes and other items that could be recycled for your float
- Crepe paper/tissue paper
- Flame-retardant upholstery stuffing
- Chicken wire
Plan the Float
Obtain a parade information packet for entry fees, float transportation, rules and regulations, deadlines and safety requirements. Contact the parade chairman for additional information if needed.
Choose a design size and vehicle size less than 8 feet wide so the float can be navigated freely along the parade route. Hay wagons and flatbed trailers make excellent floats.
Develop a design for your float based on the parade theme by choosing symbols associated with it. For a Christmas season parade, consider Santa's workshop, Christmas dinner, the Nativity or a Hanukkah celebration.
Include signs and banners where applicable. Since most parade organizers assign numbers to the floats entered, find a way to incorporate your number into your design so judges will remember the design and number together when choosing winners.
Choose a captain and divide into work groups: construction, decoration, special effects, safety. Some people are better with a nail gun than a glue gun, so hand out jobs within each person's area of expertise.
Build the Float
Skirt your float. Tack chicken wire, fabric, cardboard or foil paper around the base of the trailer; allow it to hang near the ground. If you use chicken wire, plug the holes with tissue paper, crepe paper or brightly colored napkins.
Build and decorate your stage. If you make an elevated tier with plywood and two-by-fours, skirt it as you did the trailer itself.
Glam up your float with lights and sounds. Generally, a small generator provides enough power for the special effects on a simple float. Conceal it within it the float's construction.
Tips & Warnings
- Use items you have on hand at home; forgotten things in attics and garages can be given new life as parade decorations. Old sheets, fabric, crepe paper and lace are good items to use. Chicken wire is also great for hanging decorations and creating backdrops and skirts.
- Because parades draw large crowds with lots of children, special care must be taken to make your float safe. Keep decorations from touching lights; make sure every object on the float is mounted securely; keep a fire extinguisher accessible. If you have questions about the safety of your finished project, ask the Parade Chairman to evaluate it.