April 15, 2010 | There are many ways to get yourself out before the public. Building a float and participating in some local parades is a good way to show people that you are out there. This is one thing that we did this past year. Operating from word of mouth with practically no marketing budget for almost ten full years, this economy drove us to getting our name out in front of many more homeowners. The float idea came up and seemed like an inexpensive and fun way to accomplish this. It also gave an opportunity to work at something that was not constrained by the site or someone else’s ideas.
With that said, building a float does bring challenges to the design and construction phases, as well as other areas to think about that you normally would not have to weigh out when building a deck on a home. Like what is it going to be built on. What type of trailer platform would work, or work best. Where exactly will you work on it. Who is going to work on it. Where will it be stored between parades and what will you do with it after parade season is over. Although in some warmer parts of the country this may be all year long.
For the design and construction, it has to stay on the trailer and support the people and other items that would be on it when you are out spreading the word. This can’t be built and just set up there and driven off with. For one thing if your design is to take it off and use it as a deck or ground display, it may be pretty heavy. Sure you can set it up there with your fork truck, if you have one. Or maybe get several people to grab it and lift it up there. Will they be around at take down time? It also has to be held in place while you are driving down the road doing sixty getting to each marketing opportunity.
Most float trailer sides are covered up by some frilly stuff hanging on them called fringe. This can be had on any number of web sites. This kind of jazzes it up and gets all the kiddies eyes to open wide. This is not what we are after though. We want mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and any other members of the family that may need or want what we are maneuvering through the kids and the candy. So instead of the frilly float stuff this is where the deck skirting needs to go, which also needs to stay on while you are doing the 60 mph to get there.
After that pretty much anything can go. Build a deck with or without railings. If your railings can’t handle the high winds of the drive, time to take another look at those. A pergola is like a tall railing in a way, just more sail like because of the top. For this reason the framing for the deck needs to be beefier material than what you may have previously planned. Remember also this will be taking turns around corners and you will not want to be redesigning it in the staging area before the big event, or picking it up off the ground in front of your potential future clients. If outdoor kitchens are part of your offering, put that up there. Just remember you have to go down the road with it. The kitchen could be brought in another vehicle and placed on top of the deck, but you won’t be able to do that in the staging area generally. Your creation has to be pretty much ready when it gets there, aside from the banners or flags or other such items that can be placed once you get there. A word here about the staging areas, don’t get there any earlier than you have to, unless you like waiting or have an enormous amount of set up to do. Your part of the parade does not move at the start time! You will want to look friendly and smile a lot, and yes wave a lot, which is going to be harder to do after setting for a long period of time. So get there fashionably late! Also, any plants that you would be setting and or hanging will need to be inside your vehicle for the trip there. You don’t want wind whipped and broken plants on your masterpiece. If hot tubs are something you want to show that you install, then take the weight of that water into consideration. Rubbing tires won’t impress. You could forego the water for the weights sake, and the bathing suits. You don’t want to detract from what you are selling anyway. So put the hot tub on there empty, and save yourself a lot of thinking. If fire pits are to be a part of it, consider one that can be easily taken down if it needs to go back on the display floor, or at your home. These items will all be chosen though, based on if you can have this trailer dedicated to use as a float. If you need it for hauling other things between parades you will have to consider the above items carefully.
For us it was what we already had in the way of a trailer. Ours had to be taken down at times between some of the parades. The skirting attachments were reworked through the season at those take down times. The float decks, there were two separate ones, were part of a home show display from earlier in the year that we adapted to the float. The one had only a 2×4 frame which was strengthened by a short wall framed up underneath it and out of view. The second was p.t.2×8 framing with a pergola attached to it. Which after the candy throwing & catching season, was going to be set outside and utilized just as it was. The frame made it cumbersome to get off so the trailer could be used for our other purposes. The frame height was necessary for the pergola since there was a swing hanging from it with the company models, our family and friends mostly. Many people will want to ride in a parade for you. This will show that it is a comfortable and pleasantly relaxing place to be. Which is what we are selling, right?
Most parades have some sort of theme that may or may not be what the coinciding community festival is all about. We did not go through the effort to decorate to every parade theme. We did not want to detract from what we were trying to show our work was about. Remember generally you will only be in front of each set of eyes for less than one minute. There will be times that you are stopped though and this is the time to saturate the surrounding public with your literature. Oh one suggestion we had from a chamber parade sponsor was to tape a pc. of candy to what you are handing out. Our first parade all we did was hand out candy, which had its own rewards when those little faces are longingly looking at you. This is not why you put all that work into the float though. So forgo that candy throwing temptation. Many of the parade sponsors asked that we did not throw it for safety sake anyway. If you have no walkers to hand out that nice shiny literature, find a way to stick it around the float. You would be surprised how bold people will be when they want what you have in front of them. We had to do this for one parade and filled it again half way through and still had only two left at the end!
The parade experience has to be approached as a short moving home show with very little interaction with the viewers. About ½ of the parades we researched had some sort of entry fee, though most were minimal, some were $200 & $250. Those organizers saw their parade as I mentioned above, a moving home show. So pick your festivals, work your design up, and set that trailer aside and have some fun!
To learn more about Scott Remodeling, please visit www.scottremodeling.net.