Parade organizers show off new Motown float

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Detroit — Not every unveiling of a Thanksgiving Day parade float occasions dancing.

But not every unveiling involves a Detroit icon that has never been represented in the event.

And when that icon is Motown, it is time to start dancing in the street.

When The Parade Company dropped the curtain to show off its latest addition Wednesday, part of the crowd of several hundred people began to hoof it to the Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

A man in his 70s and his 10-year-old grandson shook their moneychangers.

The chairwoman of the Motown Museum wasn’t dancing but certainly was beaming.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Robin Terry. “It exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

The 60-foot-long float, which was introduced during the parade’s annual preview, shows replicas of the Motown building, recording studio, turntable and recording studio, giant piano and 26 spinning records.

While millennials may not know what any of those things are, Art Van Elslander does.

The furniture mogul said he remembers workers singing Motown songs in the early days of Art Van Furniture, which opened 55 years ago.

“Wherever I travel, people know Motown,” he said. “It’s synonymous with Detroit.”

When Van Elslander, a longtime sponsor of the parade, learned Motown had never been represented before, he wanted to change that and commissioned a float.

In six weeks, the Parade Company, which organizes the parade, quickly put together the exhibit.

Besides its importance to the city, Motown has another claim to Van Elslander’s heart. Both companies share a birthday, opening their doors in 1959.

The float unveiling was held at the Parade Company’s massive headquarters on the east side of Detroit.

People attending the preview walked through the compound, seeing the floats of Thanksgiving past and Thanksgiving future.

One wall of the headquarters is covered with photos of clowns, which are the mascot of the firm. These weren’t the scary clowns of horror movies but smiling, child-friendly ones.

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