Posted by: Jack Henry | August 8, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Floats!

Dear Editrix,

I wonder where floats got their name. Not the ice cream kind, but the parade kind. Do you happen to know?

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Dear Boat-Floater,

My guess was that parade floats are called “floats” because they are supposed to look like they are floating above the ground, sort of like they’re all hovercrafts. Apparently, though, I am wrong, as you will see in the article below. I’ve also included a few interesting tidbits about the history of floats themselves, along with some cute dog pictures, which are always welcome in Editor’s Corner. Enjoy!

From Wikipedia:

A float is a decorated platform, either built on a vehicle like a truck or towed behind one, which is a component of many festive parades, such as those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans…the United States Presidential Inaugural Parade, and the Tournament of Roses Parade. For the latter event, floats are decorated entirely in flowers or other plant material.

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.

They are so named because the first floats were decorated barges on the River Thames for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The largest float ever exhibited in a parade was a 116-foot-long (35 m) entry in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade that featured Tillman the skateboarding bulldog (and some of his friends) surfing in an 80-foot-long (24 m) ocean of water. The water tank held over 6,600 US gallons on a float weighing more than 100,000 pounds. It broke the previous record for the longest single-chassis parade float, which was set in 2010 by the same sponsor.

Tillman, the Skateboarding Bulldog

Surfing Bulldog (Tillman?) on Rose Bowl Parade Float

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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