By Stephanie Hyland and Vince Mancuso,

INFOGRAPHIC: Top 6 Thanksgiving Day Parades

With the holidays on the horizon, people will soon be lining the streets or finding their favorite spot on the couch to watch holiday parades. As these creations make their way down Main Street, have you ever wondered how long it takes to make a parade float? Or what happens to parade balloons once they’ve traveled their route? Self storage units have played a role in both cases.

Why You Might Build a Parade Float in a Storage Unit

When it comes to building a parade float, especially a larger, eye-catching entry, there’s always the matter of where to find the space to build one.

Larger companies and organizations may have the room available in a warehouse or garage setting, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re in this situation, you may find yourself in the same shoes as the students of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash.

“Annually, here in Bellingham, we have a parade, and it’s mostly all local people participating in it,” says Eric Fiore.

Fiore says this parade—the Ski to Sea Blossomtime Parade—celebrates the larger Ski to Sea Race, a relay race that spans from nearby Mount Baker to Bellingham Bay and attracts Olympic-level athletes for its intense challenge.

“The school has a student council, and I had recommended to my peers that we build a float for the parade,” says Fiore. “We had never done that before.” And so Whatcom students began working last spring on their float, but Fiore says they met a big challenge from the start: “Where are we going to build it?”

Fortunately for Whatcom students, there was a nearby A1 Cordata Self Storage, so Fiore took the initiative to contact the facility. “They actually donated the storage unit for free for a two-month period,” he says.

This 10×20 unit turned out to be more than just a benefit for the additional space, as it also included an electricity feature, allowing the students to operate power tools and equipment that required power by using a nearby outlet. “We were fortunate that they could supply us with that unit,” Fiore adds.

Whatcom Community College Parade FloatFiore says the students used all donated and recycled materials to construct a giant, 12-foot Orca out of papier-mâché—another reason Fiore was thankful for the storage unit. “It rains a lot in Washington,” he says. “We had to have cover.” This killer whale was built around chicken wire, and its various platforms were built in sections to allow easy removal and set up outside of the unit.

“There was plenty of space, but there was some need for strategizing.” When building a parade float inside of the unit, Fiore says it was best to treat the float like a puzzle, building smaller pieces that can easily be attached together on trailer before leaving the facility. In the end, Fiore says the storage unit was what really made the Whatcom Community College’s entry in the May 24th parade possible after two months of work.

“The Orca was phenomenal! We could have never done it without the unit, absolutely could not.”

How to Properly Store a Parade Balloon in Self Storage Unit

While floats are a big thing in parades, so are balloons. After spending weeks or months creating a one-of-kind parade balloon, the last thing anyone wants is for it to get damaged due to improper storage. Self storage is a great solution for a creator or organization looking to store a parade balloon after it’s been flown.

Steve Thomson, President of Fabulous Inflatables by Dynamic Displays, which is headquartered in Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Mich., says their company uses a self storage unit for balloons. They’ve even worked all over the world with the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I know some cold-air dealers that use them for their businesses, too,” says Thomson.

“If the balloons are cold-air inflatables (balloons made from nylon or vinyl-coated fabrics), climate control isn’t necessary.”

Steve Thomson, President of Fabulous Inflatables by Dynamic Displays

Thomson says depending on what the balloon is made out of, investing in a climate-controlled storage unit could be something you need. “If the balloons are cold-air inflatables (balloons made from nylon or vinyl-coated fabrics), climate control isn’t necessary. Most helium balloons are made from a material that’s high-temperature resistant; however, many of the Chinese-made products are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and aren’t rated for extreme cold or extreme heat. A temperature-controlled environment may be good for these.”

Whether or not a balloon is in need of a climate-controlled environment, Thomson says cleaning the balloon before it’s left in storage is a must. “Always clean and dry a balloon before it goes into storage. Dirt and oils can affect the fabric over time, and it can become much harder to clean.” Other than wind, Thomson says “moisture is the worst enemy of a balloon.”

Another area of the balloon that needs to be cleaned before they’re left in storage is its cords. Thomson says that it’s up to the balloon owner if they want to leave the cords on the balloon or not while it’s in storage. “Some people prefer to leave them on the balloon, and others prefer to remove them and store them in a separate box. Either way is fine.”

“Always clean and dry a balloon before it goes into storage. Dirt and oils can affect the fabric over time, and it can become much harder to clean.”

Steve Thomson, President of Fabulous Inflatables by Dynamic Displays

Once the balloon has been properly cleaned, Thomson says the balloon would store well in the shipping bag it came in. If you want to create an additional layer of protection for the balloon, Thomson says to store the balloon in a plastic tote. “If there’s the potential of mice or pests in your storage area, plastic totes might be preferred.”

Despite the balloons being larger than life as they make their way down a parade route, once deflated, the balloons actually become very compact and easy to store. “Sizes really range,” says Thomson. “Length and width are only part of the equation; volume is a more true representation of the size of the balloon. We have four basic size categories: ornamental, mid-size, large, and super colossal. For example: A super colossal balloon by Dynamic Displays can be 50 feet and above, but once it’s deflated, it measures to be 48 x 48 x 60 inches.”

As Fiore and Thomson have shown, a storage unit can be a sensible, affordable option for parade float or balloon newcomers, as well as accomplished designers. By having a designated space to create and store your one-of-a-kind parade creations, you can ensure that you’ll be hitting the streets for years to come.

Fun Facts about Thanksgiving Parades


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Stephanie Hyland often writes blog posts about how storage units can not only benefit those who are moving to a new city, but also those of us who are traveling, going to college, or just looking for a way to alleviate some of the clutter within our home. When she is not writing for, she likes spending time with her husband and playing with their two dogs.