Wayne State students have been commissioned once again to participate as balloon handlers for Kermit the Frog as they march throughout downtown Detroit during America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van on Nov. 24.
Kari Shepley, the Parade Company Sponsorship Activation and project manager, says she always looks forward to working with WSU volunteers.
“Wayne State University [has] always been a really great partner with us,” Shepley said. “The university will be hosting our volunteers on Thanksgiving morning for the costuming area. They will also allow us to use many of their parking lots, so we offer the Kermit the Frog balloon. It’s very fitting, because Kermit is green! The university has been the Kermit balloon sponsor for a few years now.”
WSU Coordinator of Student Community Involvement Devon Sterk said the volunteer balloon handlers were selected through the Dean of Students Office.
“You will see many students, staff and faculty carrying Kermit on the parade route,” Sterk said. “To find volunteers, we sent out a big call-out to anyone who was interested and we received a really great response.”
Brianna Ellison, associate director at the WSU Division of Government and Community Affairs, said she will be part of the team carrying Kermit and she’s excited being a part of the the parade’s legacy.
“The Division of Government and Community Affairs works closely to facilitate our work with the Parade Company every year so I've had the opportunity to witness our partnership firsthand,” Ellison said. “The Parade Company has not only supported WSU over the years, but it brings the entire Detroit community together to give thanks. I wanted to become more involved this year to show my appreciation for the legacy of America's Thanksgiving Day Parade and its unwavering commitment to this city and region.”
Ellison said she is a little nervous about her walk in the parade.
“This is my first year as a balloon handler, so I'm a little bit nervous about what to expect,” Ellison said. “I'm going to eat a warm breakfast, follow the people in front of me and hope for the best.”
Junior film major Sara Kilaney said this is not her first time on the parade route, but she still needed to attend balloon handler training school for a refresher course.
“Training school for the balloon handlers was really helpful,” Kilaney said. “At first, you worry about the street lights and signs being in the way while you’re carrying this huge balloon in the air, but The Parade Company taught us how to handle the balloon while walking on the parade route.”
Ricardo Villarosa, coordinator of Student Life, Student Organization Services, said he walked in the parade many times, but this year will be extra special for him.
“Its been almost 20 years since I’ve volunteered to walk in the parade,” Villarosa said. “This year will be nice, because I’ll have my son Tyler along with me and this is his first year walking in the parade. He’s also a Wayne State student.”
Junior environmental science major Tyler Villarosa said walking in the Thanksgiving Parade is great opportunity that he has prepared himself for.
“I’m excited about dancing the frog around and making it a party for all the parade-goers and being with my dad on the route.”
As families, friends and Warriors come together for this event, fittingly, the theme of this year's parade is "90 Years Together."
The parade will step off at 8:45 a.m. on Woodward Avenue and Kirby Street and end at Woodward Avenue and Congress Street in downtown Detroit. Live broadcast of America’s Thanksgiving Parade will be on WDIV-TV Local 4 at 10 a.m.