Float work well underway

Published 6:44 pm Friday, November 7, 2008

An estimated 30,000 people see the Christmas on the River day parade each year, but only a few know how the floats are put together.

At the Christmas on the River warehouse behind the former police station on Fulton Street, construction is currently under way on five new floats, including a new Santa Claus float and Miss Christmas on the River float.

Ben Sherrod, the chair of the day parade, oversees the work going into the design and construction of the floats.

“We’re going to try to get a lot of kids to ride in the parade this year,” he said.

Sherrod joined a group of people who went to Mobile to learn more about making floats.

“Rebecca Culpepper and Ann Parsons and I went three years ago,” he said. “We were working with the people who worked on their Mardi Gras floats and learning how to do this.

“What we wanted to do this year is teach more people how to build the floats. We started in April this year, and had different people come in. Everybody is learning how to do it.”

Christmas on the River chair Kirk Brooker wants to see Christmas on the River progress through the years, while maintaining its tradition and charm that has brought people to Demopolis for the annual festival by the thousands.

“We’ve got five new floats this year out of eight,” he said, “and we’ve redone the traditional elves float that opens the parade. The idea is to have at least three new floats every year. We started early enough this year to where we had five. We’d like to have at least three new ones each year and rotate them into a cycle.

“However, the number of floats that we have is proportional to the number of volunteers we have. So many people think they won’t know how to help, like they ‘can’t’ do this, but then, some of them come anyway, and they say, ‘I can do this!’ and they have so much fun.”

For the most part, the floats are made out of paper-mache and cardboard. Brooker drew out designs of the new floats, and volunteer workers took it from there.

The meticulous work put into the reindeer on the Santa Claus float that will conclude the parade and the seahorses on the Miss Christmas on the River parade is very well done.

“There are about 30 man-hours put into each reindeer,” Sherrod said. “Multiply that by nine, and you can see how much time they put into this.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, and we’ve had a lot of good help. We’ve had 10 to 15 people doing the construction of the floats. It’s an awful lot of fun, and it’s very rewarding, when you can take a bunch of old cardboard and build something that looks like a seahorse or a train.”

Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson paid a visit to the warehouse yesterday. Sherrod told him that it was the first time that a mayor came to the warehouse.

“This is great,” Grayson said when he arrived and viewed the warehouse. “This is just amazing. You guys are doing great work.”

Brooker said that the warehouse was built specifically for work on the COTR floats back in the year 2000.

Anyone wanting to help with floats or any other aspect of Christmas on the River can contact Kelley Smith at the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at 289-0270.