Read Microsoft Word - How to build a float book.doc text version


Choosing a Theme..........................................3 Float building materials..................................4-5 How much do I need..................................................6-7 Planning your float..........................................8 Building a frame.............................................9 Covering the wagon........................................10 Banners and lettering.......................................11 Building decorations........................................12 Mascots and Toss-outs.....................................13 Safety tips...................................................14

Dear Float Builders:

Building floats is fun! We know; we've been building floats at Stumps for years! Now, we've decided to share with you our expertise and some pointers we've picked up along the way to help you get started with building a float of your own. Floats are featured in all sorts of celebrations and events, from high school and college homecoming festivities to Independence Day parades and annual festivals. All floats are unique in some way, but a common factor goes into building all of them--teamwork! Building doesn't have to be tough. With friends working together it can be a fun and rewarding experience. In this booklet, you will find theme ideas, building material options, and even a step-by-step guide to help you construct a basic parade float. We think you will find the booklet helpful and hope you will have as much fun building floats as we have through the years. Good luck! Sincerely, Stumps Spirit


The first step to creating your float is choosing a theme. Maybe a theme has already been selected for the parade, Homecoming celebration, or other event you are building a float for. If so, it will be useful to narrow your focus by selecting a slogan that ties into the main theme. Your slogan should relate to the theme, but still incorporate your own unique twist. That way your float will stand out, but won't be out of place. Coming up with a theme might seem like a challenge, but it's not as hard as you think. There are plenty of ideas all around you. Turn on the television or the radio and tune in. Song lyrics, TV shows, current events, and commercial slogans are full of catchy phrases. Who knows? You could find inspiration anyplace. Great float themes and slogans also come from cheerleading chants or sports equipment. For example, if you're building a float for your Homecoming parade, build a giant cleat about ready to stomp on someone dressed up as the opponent's mascot. Post the slogan "Stomp `em Tigers!" and you've got a great float to boost school spirit! Visit for a huge list of float theme and float slogan ideas to get you started. Choosing a theme is an important part of float building because it helps you decide on what supplies you'll need and what decorations you need to build!


There are tons of different materials you can use to create your parade float. Here are some of the basics:

Floral Sheeting Floral sheeting is flameproof and waterproof. It is a great material for covering the sides and base of your float, as well as for building decorations with. Floral Sheeting is made of a heavy plastic backing sheet with rows of sewn-on scalloped plastic flower petal shapes. You can reuse this material for later floats too! It's 3' wide and is sold by the yard at Stumps Spirit. Vinyl Fringe Add some vinyl fringe to your float to conceal the trailer's wheels and give the impression that the float is really "floating." Fringe has many other uses as well. Select from vinyl or metallic colors. Vinyl fringe measures 15" x 10'. Metallic fringe is 14" x 10'. Fringe is made out of waterproof, flameproof material that can be reused for other floats or decorating needs. Festooning Boarder the edges of your float with garland formed out of the same material as floral sheeting. Choose a contrasting color or the same color as your floral sheeting for a neat, coordinated touch. Festooning is available in a variety of vinyl and metallic colors and is sold in rolls 4" in diameter x 48' long by Stumps Spirit. Twistees As an alternative to festooning, use this dazzling garland to border the edges of your float, spirit signs, fences and more. Twistees are sold in a variety of colors in 4" x 48' rolls.


Chicken Wire You can buy chicken wire at many farm supply or hardware stores. Be sure to buy the chicken wire with 1" openings. 18" chicken wire is easiest to work with. This material is great for building float components with. Stretch the chicken wire across a wooden frame that you have designed and constructed. Secure the chicken wire to the framework by either stapling it or nailing it. Add tissue pomps for color! Tissue Squares Tissue pomps work beautifully with chicken wire to create bright colored float components and decorations, plus they're easy to work with and affordable! Stuff them into the openings of the chicken wire and glue them securely. We suggest using pomps paste, sold in pints. One package of tissue squares will cover two square feet of chicken wire with 1" openings if you fill every opening. Pomps are also available in metallic colors. Fake Grass Fake grass is great for covering the base of your float if your theme takes place outdoors. We have a variety of products you can use to create a grassy field on your float. Tissue grass mats are available in three colors--green, black, and medium blue--so you can get creative with how you use them. They measure 18" x 30" and are sold in dozens. Scatter grass is great for quickly covering large areas. It is flame retardant and each package covers 48 square feet. "Real" grass mats have a great, realistic look perfect for sports themed floats. The mats are flame retardant and 3' x 6'. Styrofoam Letters and Numbers These items are great for adding the slogan to your parade float. The letters and numbers are 1" thick and 8" or 12" tall. You can leave them white or paint them any color you like with interior latex paint. 12" Styrofoam stars are also available.


Calculating how much of these basic materials you need is easy. Per Square Foot .83 feet of Floral Sheeting .07 lbs. of Scatter Grass (optional) .46 feet of Fringe .74 feet of Festooning Simply take these measurements and multiply them by the square footage of your trailer. (To determine the square footage, simply multiple the length by the width.) The result is how much material you will need. For example, if your trailer is 200 square feet, you will need 92 feet of fringe (.46 x 200 = 92). Or, check your float dimensions against these charts below to easily find how much material you will need to cover your trailer. 2' High x 32' Long x 10' Wide Trailer Four 11-yard rolls of Floral Sheeting (for deck) One 28-yard roll of Floral Sheeting (for sides) Seven 3-pound bags of Scatter Grass (may replace floral sheeting on deck) Nine 10-foot rolls of Fringe (for perimeter) Two 48-foot rolls of Festooning 2' High x 24' Long x 10' Wide Trailer Four 8-yard rolls of Floral Sheeting (for deck) One 23-yard roll of Floral Sheeting (for sides) Five 3-pound bags of Scatter Grass (may replace floral sheeting on deck) Seven 10-foot rolls of Fringe (for perimeter) Two 48-foot rolls of Festooning 2' High x 18' Long x 8' Wide Trailer Three 6-yard rolls of Floral Sheeting (for deck) One 18-yard roll of Floral Sheeting (for sides) Three 3-pound bags of Scatter Grass (may replace floral sheeting on deck) Six 10-foot rolls of Fringe (for perimeter) Two 48-foot rolls of Festooning


Check out these questions from real customers to help you figure out your own float building material questions.

Q: "We're using double vinyl fringe on the bottom of our float--dark blue first, with white stapled over the top--our school colors. The float is 7' x 14'. How much do we need? A: Fringe comes in 10' lengths and it's 42' around your float. It will take five lengths to wrap around, with some left over. You'll need 10 lengths for the double color effect. Q: "Our float is 8' wide and 16' long. We're planning on covering the top with green indoor/outdoor carpeting. How much do we need? A: Indoor/outdoor carpet is 6' wide so you'll need a piece 22' long, which will be cut like this:

Q: "The rocket on our float is 9' high and 4' in diameter. How much floral sheeting do we need? A: Using good old , multiply the diameter of 4' by 3.14 and you'll get a bit over 12 ½ around the rocket. Floral sheeting is 3' wide, so it will take 3 lengths of 12 ½ each--or approximately 38'. That's roughly 13 yards. Just staple it in place and you're ready to go! Q: We're building a giant bear out of chicken wire. How many packages of tissue pomps do we need to order? A: Try the old trick of reducing the shape to rectangles, which will give you a better guide to ordering. It's a good idea to have more on hand than you think you need. Extras always come in handy, and you can return any unopened packages. Packages of pomps have 300 sheets and cover four square feet if pomps are stuffed into every other opening.



Planning and building a parade float may seem like a huge task to tackle, but it doesn't have to be. Break the process down into small tasks and you'll be done before you know it. Before you start planning your float, form a committee and subcommittees to help with the job. You might want to have a subcommittee in charge of each aspect of the float or a committee to stay in touch with the parade chair, hardware store, etc. Dividing the labor assists teamwork and deters the likelihood of the float chair staying up the entire night before the parade. Once you've formed your committees and subcommittees, start brainstorming for your theme and slogan. When you have your slogan and theme picked out, you'll want to make a sketch of your float. This will greatly cut down on confusion, mistakes and waste when you build your float. In your sketch, include the placement of your slogan, colors and designs for your decorations. For example, if you want the fringe to be green and the trim to be gold, label this on your sketch. Using your sketch and the guides in this book as reference, buy or borrow all the supplies you need for your float. Doing this step early on could save you money and time later on, preventing you from having to scramble to find materials. Next, build your float structures and decorations, including a frame to surround the trailer and any float components you have designed. Make sure all of your decorations are securely attached to the trailer and post the appropriate safety signs and slowmoving vehicle warnings to your float. 8


The following float tips are designed for an 8' x 16' farm wagon with the back removed. A similar sized trailer might be borrowed or rented from a local construction company or hardware store. The float could also be built on the back of a flatbed truck. Be sure to adjust your measurements and quantities of supplies according to the size of your base. Build a light wooden frame from approximately 140' of #2 1x3 pine to surround the wagon. The frame should extend from the top of the wagon bed to 15" from the ground. You can find wood for the frame at your local lumberyard. Brace the frame to the underside of the wagon and make sure that the placement of the frame does not impede the movement of the wagon's tongue. This frame will serve as support for the decorations on the sides of your float and will create a fuller look for your entire float design.



Staple waterproof, flameproof floral sheeting to the frame to create the classic "floating" look. A float this size requires 16 yards of floral sheeting for the sides. To calculate how much floral sheeting you need for your float, measure the distance around the float in feet and divide by three to get the yardage. Floral sheeting is sold in square yards and made of heavy plastic backing with rows of sewn-on scalloped plastic flower petal shapes. The floor requires 126 square feet of green indoor outdoor carpeting or grass mats. Attach 14" high vinyl fringe to the frame where the floral sheeting stops. Fringe is sold in 10' long packages. This size float requires five 10' packages of vinyl fringe. Outline the sides of the float with vinyl festooning. Festooning is available in 48' long rolls. This float requires three rolls (for the size base indicated). Floral sheeting, festooning and fringe are made from waterproof, fade-proof and flameproof plastic and are reusable for other floats.



Add your float slogan or theme with a custom vinyl banner, cheer signs, or other lettering options. Our custom banners are printed on heavy-duty, weather-resistant vinyl and come in a variety of sizes. Personalize them with your own wording, colors and mascot. They make great banners for your parade float, either to be installed on the float or carried by your mascot or color guard. Add an accent to your float encouraging your team with our tri-fold float signs. Customize two sides of each 18 inch high x 2 feet 6 inch wide x 1 foot deep sign with your choice of wording. Choose blue/gold, black/gold, purple/gold, blue/white, purple/white, green/white, or red/white. Stumps Spirit can also make a banner for you out of floral sheeting and metallic or vinyl festooning. You tell us the wording and we'll construct the banner for your float. These banners are great for the sides of your float or for your marching band to carry. The banners are 18" high and as long as you need them to be! Our Styrofoam letters and numbers are a great alternative to banners for presenting your float slogan. You can order exactly the letters, numbers and symbols you need, and arrange and attach them yourself to the float. Use a ruler to space the wording out before you attach them, making sure there is enough room on your desired space before beginning. Attach the letters directly to floral sheeting with hot glue or place a piece of plywood behind your decorations and nail the lettering to the plywood. Leave the letters white or paint them with interior latex paint. 11


Building your parade float decorations requires creativity and patience, but it's also one of the best parts about building a float. Construct your decorations out of pine #2 1x3s, chicken wire, and tissue pomps, or any other material that will help you create the look you're striving for. Working from the design you made in the planning step, build a frame out of the 1x3s in the approximate shape of your decoration. The shape of the wood doesn't have to be perfect. Then, cover the frame with 18" chicken wire (the kind with 1" openings). Shape the chicken wire into the form of your decoration and attach it to the frame with a staple gun. You can find chicken wire at local hardware and farm supply stores. Now comes the fun part. Add the color to your decoration by stuffing the holes in the chicken wire with tissue pomps and pomps paste. You can stuff them in every other hole or in all the holes, depending on your design. Use pomps paste to keep the tissue squares from falling out or blowing away. Simply apply the paste to the chicken wire with a paint brush, then stick the pomps in. Only apply paste to about a 3' area at a time so the glue doesn't dry while you're working. Floral sheeting also works for covering your decorations, but tissue pomps allow for more detail, multiple colors and more control. Here's an example: The soup can above is 8' high and 5' in diameter. The can is formed from two 5' plywood circles (top and bottom) connected by four 8' long 2 x 4's. Make the plywood circles by cutting two 2 1/2' half-circles and fastening them together with nailed-on boards. Stapled to the circular wood frame is chicken wire, which has 1" openings. This design requires approximately 80' of 18" chicken wire. White and red tissue squares are stuffed into each opening in the chicken wire. This design requires approximately 15 packages of white tissue squares and 15 packages of red tissue squares. Be sure to use tissue square paste, also available from Stumps, to keep the tissue squares from blowing away in the wind. Instructions for use are on the can. The paste cleans up with warm water. You will need two, 1 pint cans of tissue paste.



Once your float is built, maximize parade day fun for your float committee and your fans. Have a volunteer dress as your school mascot and ride on the float. You can work the mascot into the theme by creating accessories for him to wear. For example, if your theme is tropical, have the mascot wear a giant lei or a straw hat. Your mascot can help the cheer squad lead cheers, or get the crowd excited at the parade. Mascots are also great for comedic relief and they'll make your float stand out more. In addition to your mascot, another great way to encourage crowd participation is tossing out prizes from the float. Spirit items like fan beads in your school colors, inflatable sports balls imprinted with your school name, or packages of school color candies will have paradegoers scrambling to be closer to your float. Plus, tossing out these prizes is a lot of fun. It gives the people riding your float the opportunity to interact with the crowd. As your float goes by, have a competition for the prizes. See if the crowd on one side of the street can cheer louder than the other side. Which ever side has the most spirit gets prizes tossed out to them. Or, you could toss prizes to both sides anyway. Be sure to check with the float coordinators for permission before you toss out items from the float. Some parades may not allow toss outs for safety or crowd control reasons. Also, if your school has more than one float in the parade, your mascot might be in high demand. Check with the person in charge of the mascot to make sure to you get the mascot, or consider sharing him among the floats, dividing the parade up by length or time. There are tons of ways to get the crowd involved at your parade, get creative and have fun with it. The more fun you have on parade day, the more fun the crowd will have! 13


Ensure a successful parade day from start to finish by preparing everyone involved with your float with appropriate safety information. Keep everything in order by designating a student or volunteer to serve as the "float safety officer" to enforce and keep track of safety rules. This will help cut down on miscommunication about safety procedures. Practice float escape plans in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone knows how to properly and safely get off the float in a hurry. Make sure there is at least on fire extinguisher on the float and that the safety officer (or each student) knows how to use it. Know the parade route and go over any potential trouble spots with the group. Attach "slow moving" caution signs to the back of your trailer to keep your float safe on the way to the parade. Secure all decorations firmly to the float. Tie all riders with a safety harness or have something stable for them to hold so they are not in danger of falling down or being thrown from the float. Check all electrical equipment prior to the parade. Make sure there are no leaks and that all equipment is in proper operating condition. Have a back-up plan in case of bad weather.



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Microsoft Word - How to build a float book.doc