A Complete Guide to Building a Parade Float
Homecoming season means it’s time to make a float to show your school spirit. Get ready to knock their socks off with this how-to guide. You’ll learn about tissue pomps, floral sheeting, fringe and more. With these tips, you’ll be able to embellish with the best!
A great float starts with a solid foundation. We recommend you build your float on a hay wagon or trailer with a wooden bottom. This makes for an easy build. If there isn't already a wooden side frame around the edge of the flat bed, consider adding a wooden frame. If you do decide you’d like to do so, try using 1" x 4" boards. The frame extends from the top of the wagon/trailer bed to 15" from the ground. The frame looks much like the frame of a box spring. The idea is that it lowers the body of the float closer to the ground to give it the look of floating once fringe is attached. Make sure you leave clearance for the wagon/trailer to hitch to your vehicle.
How to Make Pomps
Get ready for a little pomp and circumstance with tissue pomps! These are essentially 5½" tissue squares that are flame-resistant and bleed-proof. They are what give floats the 3D look when poked into chicken wire.
If you opted to create the wooden frame, staple 1"-hole chicken wire around it. Apply pomp paste with a brush or roller, two to three feet at a time so the glue doesn’t dry. Poke each tissue square through an opening and give it a little twist. Repeat until completely covered.
Decide not to do the wooden frame? These tissue pomps can still be used to decorate props made from chicken wire. Bend the wire into your shape, apply paste and add tissue pomps.
You can also attach chicken wire to the back of the wagon/trailer and add tissue pomps. This is a great opportunity to spell out your school initials or make your school mascot symbol.
This is essentially a vinyl sheet of die-cut petals. Floral sheeting can be used to cover your float floor or to decorate your whole float. It's easy to work with and fast!
Measure and cut the floral sheeting to fit your float floor. Staple it to your framework, overlapping each piece. If you’d rather, cut the sheeting into smaller pieces to make it easier to handle.
Fringe can be wrapped around the base of the wagon/trailer to conceal the wheels. The fringe benefit? It gives your vehicle the illusion of floating.
Staple the solid band at the top of the fringe to the outside border of the wagon/trailer frame. If your fringe is too long, trim with scissors.
What in the world is festooning? It’s a fancy term for garland. Festooning is a great way to give your float a finished look by using it on edges, framing and corners.
Festooning can be attached to your float using a staple gun, pins, tape, tack or a hot glue gun.
Make an entrance with a personalized banner for your float. Let the crowd know you’re proud by displaying your school name, sport, mascot, etc. This can also go on the back of your float for a parting message to the crowd. Reuse in the school gym, at the homecoming dance or at the game.
Attach banners to your float frame using a staple gun, rope, tack or bungee cords. You can also hang a banner on your vehicle with magnets, tape or suction cups.
Props to you for making it this far! Now that you have the basic structure of the float, it’s time to decorate with props.
Again, you can create your own props out of chicken wire, then add tissue pomps. You can also use cardboard to cut out a shape. Tissue pomps can be glued to cardboard in a very similar way to create a dimensional look.
Or, take the easy route by purchasing our pre-made, personalized cardboard cutouts. Choose from footballs, thrones, letters and more. These are already printed for you, and can be easily attached to the float using hot glue, tape, pins or staples. Some of our props can even be customized with your school colors!
Spell out your spirit with styrofoam letters/numbers. These give your float a personalized look and they help the crowd identify you.
Letters and numbers can be attached to the float on the sides, front and back using nails, pins or hot glue. You can even paint the letters/numbers to go with your float’s color scheme. Here are some ideas for things you may write on your float:
These traditional decorations know how to float already, so why not add them too? They create color and add height. Fill balloon bunches with helium and tie them to your float with curling ribbon. You can also wrap balloons around posts or arches for an added effect.
We offer several other decorative products that may help you rock the float. These include:
• Flat Paper
• Grass Mats
Most of these items can be attached to the float with staples, tape, glue or pins.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you take your float to the streets:
• Consider the possibility of bad weather, including wind and rain (yes, it does in fact rain on some parades)
• Make sure all props and decorations are secured in the event of hills, curves or bumps in the road
• Measure twice and cut once
• Attach the appropriate slow-moving vehicle sign to your float
• Overestimate your materials
• Make sure there is something stable to hold onto for people riding on the float
• Get your school’s cheer squad, mascot, band or dance team involved in the parade
• Think about what you’d like to wear, whether it’s school spirit gear or themed costumes
• Don’t forget to buy candy for the crowd!
Now get out there and parade with pride—we’re on your side!