Nain Rouge march returns to streets of Detroit

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit's secretive "red dwarf" emerged in devilish glory Sunday for his annual Marche du Nain Rouge through the streets of Detroit.

The fabled Nain Rouge appeared on the roof of a smoking "cockroach car" (a vintage Honda Civic decked out in scrap metal) and traveled more than a mile down Second in the Cass Corridor, accompanied by an entourage twirling blazing batons and fire-lit nunchuks.

Within hours, the devil-horned ghoul was chased back into hiding by raucous revelers decked out in masquerade masks, Mardi Gras beads and bizarre costumes.

"We're going to run the red dwarf out of town," said Lance Tribek, 58, of Mount Clemens. He was dressed in bright-yellow pants with flowers pinned to the knees, a cheeseburger hat and dozens of strands of beads, and carried a six-foot pole topped with a sun and covered with gold tinsel.

"I'm the Detroit phoenix," said his wife, Julie Tribek, 60, who was equally brilliant in a long, bedazzled dress, and a headdress of feathers and jewels.

According to 300-year-old legend, the Nain Rouge first appeared in a dream to Detroit founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French adventurer who by some accounts was known as a liar and a scoundrel.

As the story goes, Cadillac was told by a fortune teller to beware of the fiendish creature, who was the embodiment of all Cadillac's wickedness and a harbinger of doom. The Nain Rouge later appeared to Cadillac and taunted him mercilessly until chased away with a stick. And ever since, the fiend re-emerges annually on the first Sunday after the Vernal Equinox.

Critics of the legend staged a protest Sunday in Detroit, however. About 20 people showed up along the parade route touting signs saying "Stop Nain Shame!" They distributed fliers claiming Nain Rouge has been misrepresented.

"Originally the name Rouge was a Native American Earth spirit, a protector of Detroit," said John Tenny, 43, of Royal Oak, who claims about 200 people frequent the Facebook page, We Are Nain Rouge. "They turned him into a devil.

"Instead of marching him out we should be celebrating that he's the protector of Detroit, the ancient protector of Detroit. "