Float (parade)

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A float is a decorated platform, either built on a vehicle like a truck or towed behind one, which is a component of many festive parades, such as those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Carnival of Viareggio, the Maltese Carnival, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Key West Fantasy Fest parade, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis, the United States Presidential Inaugural Parade, and the Tournament of Roses Parade. For the latter event, floats are decorated entirely in flowers or other plant material.[1]

French Quarter Float

Float history[edit]

Parade floats can be used to make political statements, such as this protest against wind power, Vasa, Minnesota, 2010.

Parade floats were first introduced in the Middle Ages when churches used pageant wagons as movable scenery for passion plays. Artisan guilds were responsible for building the pageant wagons for their specified craft. The wagons were pulled throughout the town, most notably during Corpus Christi in which up to 48 wagons were used, one for each play in the Corpus Christi cycle.

They are so named because the first floats were decorated barges on the River Thames for the Lord Mayor's Show.

Vaughn's Parade Floats[edit]

Night time photograph of lorry and trailer illuminated with thousands of light bulbs to make pictures. In the foreground and to the side are pedestrians.
Genghis Khan by Wick CC on the West Country Carnival circuit, Somerset, England

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History features an artifact file on Vaughn's Parade Floats.[2] It is a file of parade float pictures, designs and building templates. Vaughn's Parade Floats was incorporated in 1949 by Leroy F. Vaughn to manufacture commercial display and parade float supplies, Vaughn Displays Company was the world's largest manufacturer of float kits by the mid-1950s. Cyrus A. Krake, Vaughn's collaborator, designer, and co-inventor, donated Vaughn's parade float file and related materials to the Museum.

It shows how Vaughn and Krake applied the do-it-yourself aesthetic of 1950s leisure to community-oriented tasks of parade float construction. The customer chose a float design from a catalog arranged by theme and occasion, matching the picture of the finished float with the vehicle upon which it was to be built. By return mail the customer received a blueprint for construction of the underlying wooden framework, along with vinyl floral sheeting and trims in various colors to be applied as covering. The only things not supplied were lumber and labor.

The kit idea was rooted in Vaughn's and Krake's experience as professional float builders for the Minneapolis Aquatennial and south Florida’s regional parade circuit that began with Miami's King Orange Festival (the Orange Bowl parade) and concluded with Gasparilla in Tampa and Carnival in Havana, Cuba.

Floats for these parades were elaborate, custom-made creations that featured outriggers, animated figures, and lighting effects. And Vaughn's kits let everyone—in the largest city or the smallest town—master the techniques of custom float construction. Vaughn's parade float file offers us a window on community life as seen in the oldest form of organized human display—the parade.

Today Vaughn's Parade Floats has changed its name to Victory Corps - Flags, Floats and Events. Victory Corps still features a variety of parade float kits as well as its signature product Floral Sheeting. Floral Sheeting is colored vinyl petals attached to a sheet of colored vinyl used to cover parade floats.


The largest float ever exhibited in a parade was a 116-foot-long (35 m) entry in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade that featured Tillman the skateboarding bulldog (and some of his friends) surfing in an 80-foot-long (24 m) ocean of water. The water tank held over 6,600 US gallons (25,000 l; 5,500 imp gal) on a float weighing more than 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg).[3] It broke the previous record for the longest single-chassis parade float, which was set in 2010 by the same sponsor.[4]

The dogs trained for three months prior to the float's debut at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, 2012. A specially designed “wave” machine was incorporated into the design of the float which created a wave every minute.[3]

Tournament of Roses[edit]

Volunteers working on the 2007 Star Wars floats

Members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club first staged the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1890. Many of the members of the Valley Hunt Club were former residents of the American East and Midwest. They wished to showcase their new California homes' mild winter weather. At a club meeting, Professor Charles F. Holder announced, "In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

And so the Club organized horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers, followed by foot races, polo matches, and a game of tug-of-war on the town lot. They attracted a crowd of 2000 to the event. Upon seeing the scores of flowers on display, the Professor decided to suggest the name "Tournament of Roses."

Battle of Flowers[edit]

The Battle of Flowers parade in San Antonio, Texas is the only parade in the United States produced entirely by women, all of whom are volunteers.[5] The parade is the oldest event and largest parade of Fiesta San Antonio.[6] The original purpose of the parade was to honor the heroes of the Alamo.[7] In keeping with this tradition, participants are asked to place a flower tribute on the lawn of the Alamo as they pass by.[8]

Dutch flower parades[edit]

Main article: Bloemencorso
'Booming city', the winning float of the Zundert flower parade 2008.

In the Netherlands, flower parades (called 'Bloemencorso') are a popular tradition. The small country holds some 30 parades, large and small. The world's largest flower parade[9] is held every year in Zundert, a small town in the south of the Netherlands. In Zundert, and most other Dutch parades, floats are built entirely by volunteers, where hamlets compete with each other to build the most beautiful float, judged by an independent jury. Most Dutch flower parades are held in august and September and use mainly dahlia flowers. The dahlia fields are kept by volunteers as well.

Floats in popular culture[edit]

Carnival float in the Blacks and Whites Carnival in Pasto, Colombia

The climax of the movie Animal House features the protagonists from the title fraternity surreptitiously launching their own float into a parade featuring legitimate entries from many of their rivals. The illicit float, in the form of a giant decorated cake adorned with the words "Eat Me," later splits open to reveal the parade-destroying "Deathmobile" inside.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (source FBS INDUSTRIES)
  2. ^ Featured Object: Vaughn's Parade Float File, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  3. ^ a b Staff (2012). "Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc.". 2012 Rose Parade. Tournament of Roses Association. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Staff. "Longest Single-Chassis Parade Float". Guinness World Records. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Fiesta SA: The Battle of Flowers Parade...Where Fiesta Began". The Battle of Flowers Association. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  6. ^ "Battle of Flowers". Battle of Flowers Parade. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  7. ^ "Battle of Flowers". Battle of Flowers Parade. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  8. ^ "Fiesta SA: The Battle of Flowers Parade...Where Fiesta Began". The Battle of Flowers Association. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  9. ^ "Incredible New Floats at Zundert Flower Parade 2013". Retrieved 2013-11-13.