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 conscious folks too and so it helps to know the answers to these questions.
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 5 yards or 15 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 manufacturers of the product in the nation and the world for that matter.
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 the 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 1970s 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 resistance 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.
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 lightly glittered. Artificial grass or economy grade “AstroTurf” 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.
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 already 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.