Woodward Avenue from mid-town Detroit to downtown was free of cars this past Wednesday night. The road was wide open, perfect for bike riding. Accommodating me and a few other cyclists wasn’t the reason the road was car free. It was free of cars because it was lined with parade floats. Yes, parade floats were parked on the avenue in preparation for Detroit’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The road was closed to car traffic. However, police and security guards, parade staff and various city, DTE and contract utility workers were there organizing the three-mile parade route for Thursday’s big event. The majority of the floats were parked end-to-end along the west side of Woodward between Warren and Mack Avenues, a distance of about a mile. There were a few others that were being staged along the side streets that cross Woodward.
There were quite a variety of floats lined up in the night. I saw a large bicycle, building blocks that toddlers would use to memorize the alphabet, and a community garden on wheels featuring cartoonish looking fruits and vegetables. Various other themed floats were also part of the vibrant mix, including Mother Goose and a small version of the Detroit skyline.
It was interesting to see the last-minute preparations first hand; not only for the floats themselves, but for the overall parade route arrangements. The Detroit Edison crews and electrical contractors were busy taking down traffic lights and raising wires from aerial buckets raised a couple of stories high.
Other preparations included paint touch up, general assembly and testing of the access doors to the interiors of the floats. All hook-ups were being completed. Staging and overall cleaning of the colorful floats was all taking place at once, without the workers missing a step.
Although Woodward and many of the cross streets were closed to car traffic, surprisingly most of the bars and restaurants in the area were jammed with patrons. There were many families wandering around having their pictures taken in front of their favorite floats such as a large one featuring the Sesame Street characters, and of course, Santa’s sleigh with brightly painted reindeer leading the way.
As I rode south on Woodward below Mack to downtown, I was surprised at the many motor homes that had staked out their favorite parking spots in the vacant lots that line Woodward. In most cases their front bumpers were perfectly aligned, edging the sidewalks in front of them.
In other sections of Woodward, tents were set up, and lawn chairs were strategically placed along the avenue. The areas where the chairs were located were roped off to keep others from invading their unofficial property, much like prospectors claiming free, open land in the west.
The tall, multi-storied giant balloons and other parade favorites, such as the popular oversized paper-mache heads, and high school marching bands were not there yet. But they were on-hand early Thursday morning when I returned to check out the parade. People love a parade, and Detroit’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the best. It’s been drawing thousands of families and friends into Detroit for over 80 years, most standing 6 to 10 deep along Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main street.