Detroit has been coming together for 86 years to celebrate Thanksgiving and kick off the holiday season with a Parade. Did you know America’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of the oldest and second largest in the country?
It’s OK to get a Big Head
This Parade has a big head. Well, actually over 300 big papier-mâche’ heads. The heads are one of the oldest Parade traditions and “it is probably the best collection in the United States today,” says Tony Michaels, The Parade Company president and corporate executive officer. Hudson’s originally purchased them from artists in Viareggio, Italy in the 1940's, and rather than destroying the heads as they did in the “old country”, the heads were re-used and cherished here in Detroit.
Detroiter Carly Strachan will be wearing one for the first time this year. “Some date back to the 30's” she says “and the money that we pay to be part of the Big Head Corps is used towards maintaining and restoring those historic "big heads." $200 gets you in the Corps and from the sounds of it, it’s first come first served. But, Strachan says sometimes it’s not that simple. You have to try on the head and see if it fits, if it’s too heavy or too tall, and make sure you are able to see out the spy hole to see where you’re going. Basically, she says “you need to feel comfortable walking in it for over a mile”. But the money goes towards more than just being able to wear the costume on Thanksgiving Day, it goes towards restoration and maintenance and also attending fun activities and events with the Big Head Corps throughout the year.
All 150 Big Heads will be marching together as a group in the parade this year. Sparky Anderson is a new addition to the cast which includes Henry Ford, Joe Louis, Diana Ross, Tom Selleck, Bob Seger, Rosa Parks, Gerald Ford, Walter Reuther, Aretha Franklin, Charles Lindbergh, Father Cunningham, Elijah McCoy, Father Casey and Hank Aguirre.
Gotta love a parade!
Not only are the heads reused from year to year, but so are the floats. Floats have about a 3 year life-cycle, and according to Tony Michaels, floats are taken apart and try reuse everything that can possibly be reused. That includes the infrastructure, plywood and steel, too. The characters and other artistic items are also used for inventory and props and are rented for usage throughout the year.
This year the Charter One float, Michaels goes on to say, is mostly made up of recycled products. Not what you’d imagine - it includes recycled pop bottles!
So, this Thursday morning bring along a thermos of hot cocoa and continue on with the smiles and tradition along with hundreds of thousands of your closest friends and neighbors