How to Design a Carnival Float

Written by tabitha harwell
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How to Design a Carnival Float
Throw candy from the float to the crowd. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Plan to win "Most Creative" or "Best in Show" when your team builds a fabulous float. Designing a float for a parade is a time-consuming process; however, the end result will make up for the time and sweat you put into creating the float. The process can take weeks to complete, so grab your team and start planning your victory.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Trailer
  • Blueprints
  • Lumber
  • Chicken wire
  • Paper
  • Water
  • Flour
  • Paint
  • Skirting

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  1. 1

    Gather volunteers to brainstorm a theme for your float. An overall theme may be set for the parade--such as a 50th celebration--but you will need a separate theme for your float. Brainstorm with your team to think of different ideas and come up with a unanimous idea.

  2. 2

    Pick a location to build your float. The building process will take time, the length of which depends on how much you can commit to building; therefore, you will need an area that can hold the float and protect it from the elements. If a large covered space is not available, consider throwing tarps or sheets of plastic over the float at night in case it rains.

  3. 3

    Borrow or rent a trailer to use for the float. Hay wagons are commonly used because they are sturdy, easy to handle, pull easily behind a truck and come in different sizes. Semitrailers are larger, hold more people, require a larger truck to pull them and sit higher off the ground. Decide which will work best, depending on your need and regulations for the parade.

  4. 4

    Design the framework for the trailer. Start with a blueprint so you have an idea of what you want to build. The University of Maryland suggests using 2-inch-by-2-inch lumber to build flooring or a frame. This type of wood is easy to work with and fairly inexpensive. Always add support to weak places on the trailer or build an additional floor to help support a large amount of people.

  5. 5

    Decorate the frame once it is finished. Add chicken wire to gaps in the frame and papier mache over the top of the chicken wire. Mix 1 part water to 5 parts flour and dip shredded newspaper into the mix. Place the newspaper over the chicken wire to make walls. Once the paper dries, you can paint over the newspaper.

  6. 6

    Add accents to the float, such as signs, painting designs, letters and other symbols to make your float original. With a luau theme, you may want to place palm trees, oversized flowers and coconuts around the float.

  7. 7

    Wrap the bottom of the float in skirting. Plain, standard skirting is plastic, while fringe skirting is available in plastic and paper. The skirting goes around the bottom of the float to conceal the tires, and it should be no more than 2 inches above the street.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear costumes to coordinate with the theme of the float.
  • Have music playing from the float to get the crowd moving.
  • Pack an emergency kit on the trailer for unexpected surprises, with a plastic tarp, a first aid kit, a staple gun and a tool set.

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