Behind the Scenes of America’s Thanksgiving Parade Presented by Art Van

It’s almost time for “America’s Thanksgiving Parade” in Detroit! Have you considered signing up for Parade Company tours to get a behind the scenes look at the Thanksgiving parade?

Last year, we weren’t able to attend the parade because we had a new baby. But now Zechariah is 17 months old, we will be able to go! And what makes it even better is my mom, sister, and nephew will be visiting us for Thanksgiving, so they will get to join us!

The Thanksgiving parade is officially called “America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Art Van” and it is the second largest parade in the United States! New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the first largest parade in the U.S. So yeah, it’s a big deal. 🙂 Detroit takes great pride in their annual Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Detroit Parade Company Tours


A few weeks ago, Elijah (16) and I got to get a behind the scenes look at how the Thanksgiving parade is created and the amazing floats featured in the parade.

My family and I are from a small city so we’re accustomed to a smaller-size parade. Elijah and I were so excited to learn more about the Detroit Thanksgiving parade because we have never attended a big city parade before.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from attending the tour. I was also happily surprised to learn the tours are open to the public. And let me tell you, our experience touring The Parade Company was truly magical, just as they say on their website.

“Venture into our magical ParadeLand and experience a behind the scenes look at America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Art Van” (The Parade Company).

Yes, the tour truly felt like we had entered a magical land. It made Elijah and I even more excited to attend the actual parade on Thanksgiving Day!

Detroit Parade Company
The tour of The Parade Company was really magical.
Detroit Thanksgiving Parade
DTE float for the Thanksgiving parade

The Parade Company Detroit Studio Tours Presented by Comerica Bank

The Parade Company Detroit Studio Tours is presented by Comerica Bank. The tours are open to the public for a low fee. Featured on the tour are the parade’s beautifully designed floats, papier-mâché celebrity heads, and their parade costume shop.

“Take a journey through our unique creative kingdom, marvel at the world’s largest collection of papier-mâché heads that resemble local icons and famous characters. The Parade Company costume shop is warehouses over 3,000 costumes. Designed and created in our Detroit studio these costumes make a colorful array of characters come to life.” –The Parade Company

Parade Company tours
Featured on the Parade Company tour are the parade’s beautifully designed floats, papier-mâché celebrity heads, and their parade costume shop.

The Big Head Corps

Exceptional Service at The Parade Company

Our tour guide for the day went over and beyond to ensure we had the best experience. She was very knowledgeable about the details of the Thanksgiving parade, and she also shared with us some facts about Detroit’s history.

Since we are still very new to Detroit, the history she shared with us was very helpful and quite interesting. I truly appreciated all of her efforts.

Did I also mention she was very friendly? Her friendliness and great joy made our tour experience a most memorable event!

America's Thanksgiving Parade
Our tour guide at The Parade Company was so friendly and very helpful.

Detroit Jazz Festival Float

The Big Head Corps

I can’t wait to see the famous papier-mâché heads! From Aretha Franklin to Gilda Radner, there are so many cool local icons to see from the Big Head Corps. You can actually sign up to wear one of the big heads in the parade.

There is a membership fee to be in the Big Head Corps. I read over the brochure about the corps and the perks sound very nice! In fact, I wouldn’t mind signing up for a membership. You can read more about the Big Head Corps here.

Aretha Franklin “Big Head” for America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Gilda Radner The Big Head Corps
I can’t wait to see the famous papier-mâché heads! From Aretha Franklin to Gilda Radner, there are so many cool local icons to see from the Big Head Corps.

Volunteering for America’s Thanksgiving Parade

Another cool fact we learned about America’s Thanksgiving Parade is volunteers help put the parade together. According to our tour guide, many people sign up to volunteer in the parade.

Training is even offered for volunteers. The only two positions that a participant needs to pay for are the Big Head Corps and being a clown.

After our tour was over, Elijah and I talked about signing up to volunteer in America’s Thanksgiving Parade in the future. You have to be at least 16 years old, and since he meets the age requirement, I think volunteering in the parade would be an experience to remember!

Parade Company tours
Volunteers line up for their costume fitting at The Parade Company.
Detroit Parade Company
Clown costumes on display at The Parade Company.

Excited for America’s Thanksgiving Parade!

We are so excited to see this year’s America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Art Van! I hope my little ones won’t be too scared of the big floats and balloons. I know my teens are looking forward to seeing their first big city parade.

We plan on bringing hot chocolate and blankets to keep us warm. I am also really happy to share the experience with my mom, sister, and nephew. America’s Thanksgiving Parade will become a new Thanksgiving tradition for my family!

I will share pictures of our time at the parade on my Instagram and in a future blog post, so be on the lookout for it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Visit the Parade Company’s official website here or call 313-923-7400 ext. 225 for tour reservations and updates on the Thanksgiving parade. Email:



Mondays, Wednesday, Friday 9 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Tuesdays, Thursdays 9 A.M. – 6 P.M.

Saturdays 9 A.M. – 2 P.M. (Until Nov. 18)

No tours week of Thanksgiving.


December – August

Monday – Friday 9 A.M. – 3 P.M. (Saturdays upon request; closed Sundays)



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15 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of America’s Thanksgiving Parade Presented by Art Van

  1. Thanksgiving parades are my favorite! It’s really interesting to very a peek of how things work and I for sure didn’t know that people who put this together were volunteers!

  2. These costumes and floats look pretty amazing! I’ve never been to Detroit’s parade but I usually tune in for the Macy’s Parade in NYC. Enjoy your time and Happy Thanksgiving!!

  3. This looks like so much fun! Even though I live in NYC, I only watch the Macy’s Parade at home. Cool that you were able to go behind the scenes. The pics of the floats remind me of Mardi Gras World in New Orleans

    1. I’ve never been to Mari Gras. I’ve always wanted to, though! Based off of photos I’ve seen of the Marid Gras floats, I agree with you that the Detroit Thanksgiving floats look very similar.

  4. I had no clue that the parade in Detroit was so large. That’s clearly the Jersey girl in me being focused on NYC. I think that it’s awesome your son was able to join in on the fun with you. That’s an experience that the both of you will remember for a long time to come.

  5. Wow! I know your son loved this. I would love to get a behind the scenes look. I bet you witnessed so much! And to top it off, excellent customer service with your tour guide! You had a FAB day!

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