|George W. Bush gets a noseful of Ahmadinejad's "Armpit of Evil" (Word play: Achsel |
des Bösen instead ofAchse des Bösen) on this float in the Düsseldorf carnival parade,
A float is a decorated platform, either built on a vehicle or towed behind one, which is a component of many festive parades, such as the Maltese Carnival, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Key West Fantasy Fest parade, and the Tournament of Roses Parade. For the latter event, floats are decorated entirely in flowers or other plant material.,
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.
The name is derived from the first floats, which were decorated barges that were towed along canals with ropes held by parade marchers on the shore.
Vaughn's Parade Floats
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. 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.
Tournament of Roses
Volunteers working on the 2007 Star Wars floats
Main article: Tournament of Roses Parade
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."
Floats in popular culture
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.