After the Parade Is All Finished

“Parade floats got the name “float” because the figure or scene appears to float on the surface of the street, much as a ship appears to float on the surface of the water. Parade floats are used in a variety of civic and religious celebrations. One of the earliest written references to a procession, the predecessor of today’s parade, dates to about 1800 B.C. when King Senwosret III of Egypt had his scribes write “I celebrated the procession of the god Up-wawet.” Such religious processions may date back to 3200 B.C. or earlier.

The first reference to any vehicle resembling a parade float comes from Greece in about 500 B.C. when a statue of the god Dionysius was carried from his temple in a “festival car” pulled by two men. This procession was part of the opening ceremonies for a stage drama and was designed to gain favor from both the god and the drama critics.

Parades continued to be an important form of celebration and often featured kings, conquerors, and other notables riding in splendidly decorated carriages. The Emperor Maximilian of Germany was one of the first to commission an artist to design “triumphal cars” for his parades in 1515. The cars were decorated with bells, fancy fabrics, and carvings of flowers, fruits, and mythological creatures.

In the United States, parades and parade floats were an important part of American life starting in the early-1800s.”

Like most people I’ve never contemplated what happens to all the floats once the parade is finished.  During Carnaval there were several floats that were paraded every day over the four days.  When Carnaval was terminado two of the roads where the Abajo and Arriba parades originated were blocked for several days so the floats could be dismantled.  The Arriba cart for the tuna remains parked on a side street and several pieces of the floats are locked behind a gate on the same street.  The Abajo float pieces and tuna cart are laying in the open in a yard:

It got me to pondering what happens to other floats from large parades.  My research has shown the Disneyland has a big storage barn for their “retired” floats but they do recycle them once in a while.

After the Tournament of Roses Parade some parts of the floats are taken for display in other shows and parades. The flowers are used as compost and the vials that held water for the flowers are washed, disinfected and reused the next year.  The parade rules require that all decorations must be some part of a living plant. The importance is placed on roses and other flowers, but seeds, petals, bark, leaves, fibers, stems, vegetables, nuts, and almost any other part of a plant are also used.  Seven different types of glue may be used to hold the flowers in place.  It’s probably the most ecologically sound parade because everything that is organic goes back to the earth and the non-organic items are recycled.

The Carnaval floats were elaborately decorated three-dimensional scenes made of polyurethane foam, mounted on trailers and towed by tractors.   The lighting was run by very loud generators and extension cords were strung throughout.  The underlying structure was not visible as there was skirting all around to disguise it to make it look like it was indeed “floating”.

After taking part in two beach clean ups where polyurethane foam seemed to be the major cause of pollution it’s quite astonishing to see the float graveyards.  Fundraising to build these floats takes place all year and culminates with Carnaval.  Soon the Queens for 2014 will begin in earnest to hold raffles and events to raise money for their floats and fireworks.  And once wet season is upon us I’m sure that the 2013 float graveyard will become even more startling.  Is there a program set up to recycle all these pieces, will they be sold or will they just end up as lawn ornaments?  I don’t really know, stay tuned.


About indacampo

You'll find me at blogging about Panama...and other things.
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