Quicken Loans floats new Thanksgiving Day parade float

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

It’s more than 100 feet long with enormous Lego blocks, a gargantuan robot and a giant red rocket.

It’s the newest float in America’s Thanksgiving Parade, the third beloved Detroit tradition on Turkey Day behind dinner and Lions football.

Called “Detroit — City of Possibilities,” it was designed in partnership with Quicken Loans and built by The Parade Company. This year marks the 90th year of the parade, presented by Art Van, with the theme of “90 Years Together.”

Tony Michaels, left, President and CEO of The Parade Company and Jay Farner, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quicken Loans stand on the float as they talk about the 90th America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van, on November 24th.

On Friday, the Detroit-based home mortgage lender gave Metro Detroiters a sneak peek of the new float.

“We think this float really represents everything that’s happening in the city of Detroit — all the re-invention of the city that’s going on right now,” said Jay Farner, Quicken Loans’ president and chief marketing officer at a news conference unveiling the float. “It also speaks to the possibilities for the future.”

He was joined at the company’s headquarters on Woodward downtown by Tony Michaels, president & CEO of The Parade Company and hundreds of Quicken Loans employees.

“The whole idea behind it was technology is rising out of the streets of Detroit,” Micheals said.

The 16-foot-tall steel and wood float — one of eight new ones in this year’s parade — has three segments. The first features foot-long Lego blocks and a small robot carrying a sign that says “Welcome to Detroit.”

The second is a 45-foot-long, anthropomorphic robot lying on its belly, moving its ankles back and forth while looking through a virtual reality visor and holding a tablet.

Pulling up the rear is a rocket that a hydraulic arm can lift 25-feet in the air. It’s accompanied by a couple of astronauts and bellows steam from its tail. The rocket is a nod to two of Quicken Loans’ sister companies, RocketLoans and Rocket Fiber, a high-speed Internet service provider.

Michaels said construction of the float began in January and finished about a week ago.

The DTE Energy Foundation also has a new float in the parade. Unveiled last week, it’s called “Caring for our Environment.” The float features an 18-foot canoe, a wind turbine that elevates to 22 feet and an eagle with a 12-foot wingspan. It also has a DTE employee volunteer planting a tree.

Officials said the Detroit Jazz Festival, Ford Motor Co., the Skillman Foundation, Shinola Detroit, Lear Corp. and Huntington Bank will also have new floats in this year’s parade.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade, which is in 27 days, was started in 1924 as the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people line Woodward to watch the procession of more than 60 floats, balloons and marching bands travel about 21/2 miles from West Kirby to Congress.

In 1990, the parade lost its primary sponsor — the now-defunct Hudson’s department store chain — and was on the brink of being canceled until furniture retailing giant Art Van Elslander rescued it. His company signed on to become the parade’s presenting sponsor in 2013. Last year, it renewed a three-year contract to remain the parade’s patron.

The third section of the float features a rocket on a hydraulic arm, a couple of astronauts and bellows steam from its tail. The rocket is a nod to two of Quicken Loans’ sister companies, RocketLoans and Rocket Fiber, a high-speed Internet service provider.

The parade is produced by The Parade Company, a Detroit non-profit founded in 1984. It also produces other events in the city, including the Strategic Staffing Solutions Turkey Trot, 10 kilometer, five kilometer and one mile foot races run before the parade. It also sponsors the Ford Fireworks on the riverfront in the summer.

Quicken Loans says it’s the nation’s second largest retail home mortgage lender, closing more than $220 billion of mortgage volume since 2013. It has 15,000 employees and is owned by business mogul Dan Gilbert.

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