Parade Float Design Blog

What do I use to cover my float?

by Dave Evans

Dave  February 21, 2013

Many times someone will ask the question, "What product do you recommend to cover a float?" I tend to need more information to answer that question.  So I usually ask the person to tell me the nature of their float, if people are riding and about their budget.  Of course, our company, ParadeFloatStuff.com sells parade float covering products, but we are budget concious folks too and so it helps to know the answers to these questions.

Floral Sheeting / Petal Paper

One of the most widely used products available for covering broad surfaces areas of a parade float is a product called Floral Sheeting. It is made in 36" wide rolls by 10 yards or 30 feet long.  Floral sheeting is made in a variety of colors and also some mylar colors (mylar colors would be a similar finish as a mylar balloon).  The base material is a flat thin layer of colored plastic with patterns of same colored flowers or rows of flower petals pasted over the top side.  Paradefloatstuff.com is one of three manufactures of the product in the nation, and the world for that matter.

 

Metallic Gold Floaral Sheeting 

Floral sheeting came about as a cheaper and easier alternative to decorating parade floats with flower petals and other organic floral products in the early to mid 20th century.  At the time, floral sheeting was made from decorative tissue paper in a variety of colors.  Although the tissue floral sheeting was flame retardant, it was not water resistant.  It was made until the late 1970's when most manufacturers switched to the more popular and more durable vinyl floral sheeting.  The product is still made in much the same way today.

Floral sheeting has been used to cover a variety of areas of a parade float such as; the bed, the sides and ends, backgrounds, props, giant letters and even pick-up trucks, cars, truck beds and golf carts.  It has been used for table coverings, window backdrop displays, exhibit booth displays and many other creative decorative purposes. But it was originally created for use on parade floats. It is durable for outdoor use over a limited period of time, holds up well to float passengers standing or sitting on it, has considerable UV resistence and it's waterproof.  Some of the benefits of its use include the animation given when the flower petals move in the breeze, the textured surface it provides, the product's ability to cover all those construction imperfections by those of us who are not construction professionals and the vibrant colors it provides. Depending on how floral sheeting is attached, most of it, can often be reused.  

 

Light Green Vinyl Roll

 

Vinyl Rolls or Mylar Rolls

Other methods of covering a float include using the Vinyl or Mylar Rolls, which is the same material used to produce the floral sheeting, without the flowers.  The mylar can be used either laid out flat, or completely crinkled or wadded and then somewhat stretched back out on the surface, giving a unique "cracked" or textured surface.  Occasionally the surface areas of a float bed are smooth enough to simply be painted with latex paint and even ligthly glittered.  Artificial grass or economy grade "astro-turf" has been used in covering the top of a float bed, especially if there are a number of younger passengers riding the float. If your parade is in Valparaiso, Indiana during the popcorn festival, you'll likely cover the surface of a parade float with popcorn and/or popcorn seeds.  Cotton batting has been used to duplicate snow for a Christmas parade float, and then lightly glittered to look like sparkling snow. Entire float surfaces have been coated with glitter.

 

Yellow Deco-Puffs

Deco-Puffs or Pomps have been widely used for mostly the vertical surfaces on a parade float.  Deco-Puffs or Pomps are 5-1/2" X 5-1/2" flame retardant, tissue squares that come pre-packaged, 300 sheets to a pack, in a variety of colors.  Deco-puffs are usually somewhat folded and partially pushed into chicken wire, that is alread fastened to the float.  It is a good idea to paint the surface of the chicken wire with a water diluted mixture of school glue, so that the deco-puffs stay where placed.  Unique designs and even letters can be made with various colors of deco-puffs placed in chicken wire.  One package usually covers about 1 or 2 square feet, which would be an area measuring from 12" X 12" to 12" X 24".  Deco-puffs work well for school groups or other large groups that have plenty of help, where everyone can have a job of decorating the float.  However, deco-puffs are not at all water resistant and can lose their desired effect and appearance quickly during light rain.

Finally, creativity is the best thing to use to cover a float.  Many have devised well thought out ways to uniquely decorated a parade float. The examples above are simply ideas we have been exposed to over the years that have functioned very well.

 

 


 

 

What Kind of Trailer?

by Dave Evans

Dave February 18, 2013

One of the most consitant questions asked is, "what do I use to build a float on".  Historically, parade floats were probably as popular in the mid-west and agricultural belt as anywere; and maybe still are.  The benefit of living in these areas were the availability of the "hay wagon" or "hay rack".  This kind of trailer usually already had a wooden bed, with four tires and a hitch or "tongue" that had little or no weight, because all of the trailer weight was suspended on the four tires.  If you were lucky enough to know a farmer that had one of these trailers and could borrow one, you could create a fairly quick parade float, attaching some plywood to the sides and ends and making some decorative features on top.  The wood surfaces made it much easier to staple the decorations to the float and an added benefit was all the imperfections in construction were easily hidden by the decorative covering products.  Some of those trailers are still available today, but on a very limited basis.

Alternatively, most folks have resorted to using the widely available and more common utility trailer for an averaged size float (see image below).  This type of trailer has a steel frame and part of the weight of the trailer is supported by the hitch, which means it can be towed with a tractor, pick-up truck or SUV with a suitable hitch.  Utility trailers usually either have one axle (two tires) or two axles (four tires), depending on the length of the trailer.  Some have flat beds, but most have rails raised above the bed of the trailer along the sides and the front, with fender wells and tires extending out past the rails. A word of caution about using these trailers; because the wheels extend out past the sides of the trailer, there is a greater danger that someone could fall off the float and be struck by the trailer.  Use great care and supervision when using an open utiltiy trailer for a parade float.  ParadeFloatStuff.com and Walt Evans Decorators, Inc is not recommending nor advising the use of these trailers; only reporting on what others have used in the past.

  A common single axle utility trailer

Addtional construction can be done to the trailer to make the parade float more aesthetically appealing, while hiding the wheels and other undercarriage.  Folks have used pallets or "skids" stacked in the bed of the trailer, from front to back, to a height even with the rails.  The pallets should be fastend together and to the trailer.  5/8" or thicker 4' X 8' sheets of plywood are to be layed across the trailer and over the rails and fastened to the pallets, making a"bed" over the rails and the entire length of the trailer.  Depending on the width of the existing trailer, the plywood will likely extend out past the fenders and the tires.  Simple vertical sides can be attached to the edge of the newly created plywood bed from narrower sheets of plywood.  The sides should not in any way interfere with the tires on the trailer.  The sides should only suspend down to about 14" above the ground, in the event the trailer hits a bump or pothole, keeping the sides from getting damaged if they were suspended closer to the ground. Plywood can also be suspended on the ends of the trailer. And, most folks find the plywood sides are a great place to put a message or sponsor name, since it's so easy to staple Letters to the plywood. 

Float decorations or props can now be easily stapled or drywall screwed to the newly created float base; instead of the steel structure that existed prior.  And standard 15" Drop Float Fringe hangs perfectly from the bottom of the sides to the ground, giving the parade float that "floating" effect, while hiding all the unappealing undercarriage. It might be a little extra work, but the final product is worth it.  

 

Shipping Questions

by Dave Evans

Dave August, 6, 2013

A very common question we hear at ParadeFloatStuff.com is how long does it take to receive my order.  We ship orders out same day, every business day (M-F), as late as 3:00 EST.  We have negotiated with UPS to be nearly the last pick-up for our driver's day so that we can get as many orders shipped as possible.  Occasionally, our driver doesn't arrive to pick up our out bound shipments until after 5:00 pm.  That means we simply continue to pack and process orders until the driver arrives with the goal of getting as many orders shipped same day as possible. 

Some of our customers take advantage of our offer to provide free UPS Ground shipping on orders over $100.00.  These orders get the same preferential treatment as any other order received throughout the day.  In fact, orders are processed in the order they're received.  Shipping times vary but a good rule of thumb is to view the UPS Map to determine how many business days it takes UPS to deliver Regular Ground shipments. 

UPS Map

For example if a customer from Kansas orders on Monday and the order ships on Monday, it will be delivered on Wednesday of that same week, since Kansas is considered a 2 business day shipment from our warehouse. 

Customers can also visit UPS.com and click on "Calculate time and cost" to more accurately determine the number of shipping days required to receive an order.  Of course we also offer expedited shipping methods such as, Next Day Air, 2nd Day Air and 3 Day Select.  According to UPS, all of these methods including Regular Ground are guaranteed to deliver when they say it will.

We know the importance of fast shipping, since we have been in the business of producing parade floats for decades.  We know our customers need the products they order from us in a very timely manner.  We understand the time sensitive nature of our customer's orders and we certainly understand there is no need to order products that won't be received until after the event is completed.  This simple understanding causes us to always focus on inventory, making sure we have plenty of stock to cover our customer's needs.  Obviously, there are times we're caught off guard by an occasional extremely large order that even our suppliers have difficulty filling.  That being said, our goal is ZERO BACKORDERS! In the first 7 months of 2013 we have demonstrated our best record ever of shipping orders on time; 99.9%! We're not bragging (or maybe we are a bit) but we just want our former and future customers to know how important it is to ship orders in a timely manner.    


About Dave

Dave

Dave Evans, president of ParadeFloatStuff.com (also known as Walt Evans Decorators, Inc), has been in the parade float business for more than 30 years.  In fact, he grew up in the family business originally owned by his father, Walt Evans.  Dave assumed the leadership role in the business in 1991.  The business evolved from solely providing custom created parade floats for various parades throughout the mid-west to eventually being a major source of do-it-yourself parade float decorations and float supplies on the internet. In that time of transition, ParadeFloatStuff.com successfully created a custom manufacturing process for Floral Sheeting, Parade Float Festooning/Garland and Parade Float Letters in 5", 8" and 12". 

Over the many years, Dave has been heavily involved in the creation of each custom parade float produced by Walt Evans Decorators, Inc.  In 2011, the parade float production division of Walt Evans Decorators, Inc was sold to another vendor in Western Maryland.  Upon final tally, Dave realized he had literally created thousands of floats over the years which were displayed in hundreds of parades throughout the mid-west.  He's had experience with mechanical animation, electrical generators, illumination for floats for night parades, self-propelled floats, transporting floats over long distance, creating floats from 10 feet long to 80 feet long and 6 feet wide to 30 feet wide, dealing with issues associated with decorated tow units and several other decorating issues.  Over the years, Dave's focus was to provide outstanding service to all of the clients served and give them as much bang for their buck as was possible.  This hands-on experience has given Dave the knowledge and ability to be a very helpful consultant for those creating their own parade float.  And, as it turns out, helping folks with their float is something Dave truly enjoys! 

 

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