My Random Job: Parade float fabricator

Parade Company, Detroit MI
Image courtesy of The Parade Company

The Parade Company is based in Detroit and is responsible for putting on America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Each year they hire dozens of temporary artists to help rebuilt and spruce up old floats as well as build brand new floats for the big day.

I don’t quite recall how I heard about the gig, but I remember interviewing with the creative director showing him my portfolio of puppetry work. I don’t really consider myself an artist…I can’t draw worth squat, and feel more comfortable building than designing. But the director at the time appreciated my fabrication skills and knowledge on how to work a wide variety of power tools, so I was hired to work on the 2003 Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It was beyond awesome. Not only did I make a lot of wonderful friends, (including re-kindling old childhood friendships!) but I got to learn about large-scale fabrication. Many of the tools and tricks are still with me today. The Parade Company uses it’s floats over and over each year, depending on sponsorship. If a new sponsor comes on, they would get to built a brand new float. I don’t remember how many new floats we built during my time there, but between repairing and cleaning up old floats as well as fabrication of new ones, I had a fairly consistent full-time schedule.

The Dream Detroit Float
I helped make this! I remember carving, filing, and shellacking the green sweater, bed posts and canopy

It’s so fun to look back at photos, pointing and beaming with pride: “I helped make that shoe!  I built Santa’s window!  I painted that chair!”

Some people think that it’s “selling out” to work as a corporate artist, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. To make art and get paid for it? That’s just awesome. And the opportunities are out there if you just look for them.

Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!