29 Mar 2012
Easter is just around the corner and in my house that means lots of Cadbury chocolate eggs, the smell of vinegar mixed with the sound of Easter Egg dye pellets fizzing, but most importantly, it’s time to build a float for the neighborhood Easter Parade!
I love my neighborhood for many reasons. It’s a quaint little area hidden away in east Dallas; there’s hardly any traffic, there’s a great park nearby, a running trail that connects to the lake and it has a wonderful sense of community. On nearly every holiday, the neighborhood gets together and throws a huge party. At Halloween we have a haunted house down at the park with carnival games and a cake walk. At Christmas they shut down our street and have a block party with live reindeer and Santa makes an appearance…and then of course there is Easter. I don’t think I had ever heard of an Easter parade before I moved into our neighborhood, and last year I was charged by my neighborhood organizer to build a float for the parade.
Being in the design field, I use opportunities like this to express my creativity … part of it is to see how big of an impact I can make and the other is the satisfaction of making the kids smile.
I take this parade float business pretty seriously. Although I would love to spend a lot of time working on it, I just don’t have that much spare time and I can’t spend a lot of money either. If you think about how long it takes to build a chicken wire shell around a car or trailer and then decorate it with tissue paper or a mass a paper maché factory to cover the thing – you’ll realize that just ain’t gonna happen.
So I was on the hunt for something that would have a huge impact, cost as little as possible, and something I could put together in an afternoon … all by myself. Sounds simple, right?
I did a little research on the origins of “floats” and realized that what our neighborhood was missing was a real FLOAT…you know, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade type stuff. At first I thought it was pretty ambitious but then I realized… I could make a lightweight plastic shell and fill it with helium balloons and be in business.
This is a concept sketch of what I was thinking.
Here are the steps I went through to make this happen:
Step 1: Figure out what you want to do … this is the most difficult part.
Our neighborhood rents out plywood Easter Bunnies for everyone to put in their front lawn so I decided to make a giant version of one of these.
Step 2: Draw up the outline of your shape on graph paper (or in AutoCAD) so you can get a sense of how big to make it, This rabbit was 12’ wide X 20’ tall.
Step 3: Make the template. I used some old drawing sheets that we were
throwing out recycling at the office to draw my template on. Essentially I made a grid of 30”x42” rectangles over the CAD rabbit and then translated that by hand to the paper sheets. Since this pattern is symmetrical, I only had to draw half of the pattern.
Step 4: Make the envelope.
I purchased some extremely thin painters plastic sheeting from the hardware store and layered two full sheets that measured 12’x20’ each. I then folded these 2 layers in half lengthwise and lined them up with my template. I cut out the shape with scissors and taped the edges all around leaving a 2’-0” gap at the bottom (where the balloons would get inserted). With help from one of my friends, we filled the pocket up with air using a leaf blower to make sure that the shape looked right.
Another important step was figuring out how to control the rabbit once it was filled. I made my best guess and added some long strings to allow us to move the arms and head which allowed us to lower him under tree branches down the parade route.
The first 4 steps took me approximately 5 hrs to complete.
Step 5: Filling the Pocket with balloons.
This step kind of took me by surprise. I didn’t realize just how long it would take to fill 200 hundred helium balloons. Furthermore, I had no idea how difficult it would be to try to control a 20’ rabbit filled with balloons in 5 mph winds. Luckily, 6 of my friends showed up and helped me blow up balloons and vigorously stuff the rabbit…so it was manageable. Once it was filled we taped the opening in the bottom and prayed that there wouldn’t be any holes (I don’t have any pictures of filling the rabbit because I was having a mild panic attack at that time).
Step 6: Parade time.
We took our spots in the queue and marched down the street while waving to the kids, dodging plastic Easter eggs filled with jelly beans, and attentively steering the giant rabbit down Newell Ave.
Yes, that is me in the middle (pre-beardness) and yes, I am wearing blue searsucker pants with white oxford shoes. Any other questions?
I had a lot of fun making this project and was happy to see that the crowd loved it too..
It’s now time for me to figure out what is one the agenda for this years parade. So far, it’s a tie between a stuffed animal rabbit bazooka and a life-size Trojan Rabbit.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you decide to make your own Easter Parade Float like this I’d love to see the pictures! And if you’re in east Dallas on Easter Sunday swing by the parade…you’ll have a great time…guaranteed!
Happy Easter ya’ll!