The Parade Company offers exclusive tours for Mother’s Day

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published April 26, 2016


METRO DETROIT — Even though it’s spring, you can treat your mom to a winter wonderland this Mother’s Day.

The Parade Company Studio in Detroit is opening its doors Mother’s Day weekend, May 6-7, for private, behind-the-scenes tours of its 200,000-square-foot warehouse, which is home to floats, costumes and props used in the annual America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van.

The Parade Company has offered private tours for Valentine’s Day since 2010, but this is the first year that the program will be held for Mother’s Day.

“It’s such a unique experience that we thought we’d bring it to moms,” said Kim Lowell-Leverett, director of volunteer and tour services for The Parade Company.

Most metro Detroiters have seen The Parade Company’s larger-than-life floats on TV or while standing along the parade route on Thanksgiving morning, but seeing them in person at the warehouse is a whole new experience.

“Everyone likes seeing the floats up close,” said Sterling Heights resident Maggie Prong, a volunteer tour guide at The Parade Company. “It’s amazing.”

Prong has been a volunteer at The Parade Company since 2008 and has led tours at the warehouse for the past seven years. During her tours, she provides some historical background on the parade, and because of her experience as a float driver and spotter, she also offers insight into what it takes to guide the floats down the parade route.

While The Parade Company offers tours to large groups throughout the year, Prong said the private tours offer visitors a more intimate, hands-on experience with more interaction with the floats.

“It’s little bit more personal than having a group tour,” said Prong. “We’ll let them go on a few floats, take pictures. … We let them try on the big heads.”

The Parade Company’s collection of vintage papier mache heads — or “big heads” as they’re often called — is the largest in the world, with 450 on hand at the warehouse.

Prong added that visitors are always amazed at the bright colors and intricate details that go into The Parade Company’s creations, and they tend to stop in their tracks when they see Santa’s sleigh and the stage on which he is given the key to the city of Detroit each year.

“When anyone, young or old, sees Santa’s sleigh, their eyes get big and their mouths drop,” said Prong.

The tours will also give moms a chance to see the 3,000 costumes that are used in the parade each year, and maybe even catch a glimpse of float builders and artists in action.

“We work all year round,” Lowell-Leverett explained.

Tours are by reservation only, and there are 40 spots available. The tours will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 6, and from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 7. The cost is $100 per couple or $175 per family of four, which includes the tour, flowers, a bottle of wine and a commemorative photo with one of the floats.

Because The Parade Company is a nonprofit organization, $50 of each tour is tax-deductible.

“It helps us put on our fabulous events and, of course, America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van,” said Lowell-Leverett.

The Parade Company Studio is located at 9500 Mt. Elliott St., Studio A, in Detroit. To reserve a tour, call (313) 923-7400. To learn more about The Parade Company, visit