- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - As Thanksgiving Day approaches, those working inside The Parade Company warehouse on Detroit’s east side are working almost constantly to prep floats and props for the second biggest parade in America.

Eric Schmitt, art director with The Parade Company, said it takes hundreds of man hours to get the floats ready to go.

Schmitt, assistant art director Alex Fedirko and other volunteers and part-time workers take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks to construct a float. Along with a 125-foot-long monster crafted for Art Van, five new floats will trail down Woodard Avenue this year.

Fedirko did the math: it would have taken one person a full year to build the Art Van float, he said.

Some of the floats are pulled, others driven from a chassis under the float. The characters and structures on top are carved from foam by a team of sculptors.

It’s fun, the artists said. They’re part of the prep for the largest party in the country, and some of the floats have a look of impossibility about them, which makes it even more fun.

Russ VanNess, a parade artist, is in his third season working with The Parade Company. He has a degree in drawing and painting from Wayne State University and worked in graphic design and art for a bit before coming to work for The Parade Company.

He’s experienced in painting 3D figures, which helps immensely with painting the sculptures for the floats. His hands will touch almost every part of a float, he said, which is fun to think about.

VanNess, his clothes covered in all sorts of paint, said the volume of work that needs to be done to put the parade on is immense, and it offers a special challenge.

Like most everyone who was in the warehouse last week, VanNess said the tradition of the parade is a driving factor.

“I enjoy that I can contribute to something that’s a Detroit tradition,” he told MLive.com (https://bit.ly/1MTxu8b ).

The 2015 America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van will “step off” at 8:50 a.m. at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Kirby Street in Midtown. It will wrap south of Campus Martius Park downtown.

The theme this year is “So Happy Together.”

The parade is free to the public to line Woodward Avenue. Grandstand tickets are on sale for $40.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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