Float Building 101 in Truckee Tahoe
July 2, 2010
With a new twist on the “Build it and They Will Come” mantra, a parade float done right is basically a joy delivery service. Yes, it requires some time and effort, but what good things in life don’t? All you really need to get started is an idea and, preferably, a low-boy trailer.
Low-boy trailers are ideal for float building and usually have rails around the perimeter. With this serving as your basic platform a simple deck can be erected, flush with the top rails of the float. Good quality pallets should be used and your local lumber, shipping or hardware company may be willing to donate or loan these in the name of a worthy cause. Next lay sheet plywood over the pallets and fasten well. To hide the trailer wheels and undercarriage, thus giving the illusion of “float,” a skirt frame using 1″ x 1″ or 2″ x 2″ pieces of wood can be fixed to the rails and and#8211; voila! You have a stage to present your masterpiece.
Once your float “canvas” has been established, the fun for your team begins and#8211; and it is a team. Float building is not for the loners of the world. It is a group effort producing a moving bundle of accumulated imaginations meant to excite the masses. In a perfect world, your float building team would consist of a mechanic, a good driver and the creatives. A contractor (general or mechanical) wouldn’t hurt either. Under the header of “Creatives” bring in the children and pick their excited, all-bets-are-off, we-don’t-care-about-the-budget, brains. Sky’s the limit is a good place to start when formulating the dream you want to realize on your trailer/canvas.
The transformation from plywood and pallet to parade-worthy float will take some basic materials such as lumber, chicken wire, staple guns, glue and plumber’s tape to provide the backbone for the fun stuff. The fun stuff is what is going to make or break your float and is usually a combination of your own ingenuity and basic float frill components best left to the experts. Linda Offerdahl, owner of Incline’s Dress Your Part(y) which offers float building merchandise illustrates it best.
“I had a client come in who was building a float with an aquatic theme,” says Offerdahl, “I showed her how the blue floral sheeting could work to serve as the and#8216;ocean’ covering the float’s stage area and the glitter blue fringe could be become and#8216;waves’ when applied as skirting. They then put a kiddies’ pool on top with rubber ducks and beach balls, children in bathing suits and#8211; the whole nine yards. It was a great success.”
At this late date, if you are planning your July Fourth float, Dress Your Part(y) is probably your best one-stop-shop option for floral sheeting, skirting, cut-outs, balloons, beads to throw from the float and costumes (to rent or own) as opposed to trying to do it on-line. They are knowledgeable about float building (even hosting workshops) and reasonably priced, donating all proceeds to a different charity each month. Phone 775-832-7278.
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To assist you in making your own specific vision come alive, it is wise to work with a float sponsor who can provide further props, such as a landscaper (borrow a fountain!), hardware store or lumber company.
Sponsorships can be a win-win for both float master and sponsor/vender if used well. Make sure your sponsor gets plenty of on-site coverage from the parade MC and include your sponsor(s) name in all collateral pieces and radio spots as well as signage on the float itself. Says Mile Pelletier, chairman of CATT’s float building team, last year’s winner of “Best in Show” in Truckee’s Annual Fourth of July Parade, “When sitting down to work with your team on the float, start with a blank sheet of paper. Ideas will become fluid. Yes, you will hit some loggerheads. They will work themselves out. Try to initiate a float with motion. People love things that move, that work. Remember this is not for you or for your company or for your team. It’s for the joy you are bringing to the crowds, to the children lining the streets, cheering in anticipation of being awed and amazed. Entertained.”
His final piece of advice?
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