For the second year in a row, Wayne State students and staff carried the Kermit the Frog balloon in the annual America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
WSU entered its second year partnership with the Parade Company and sponsored the Kermit the Frog balloon. Victor Green, WSU director of community relations explained that because of WSU’s sponsorship, the Dean of Students Office notified students of the opportunity to be balloon handlers.
“It’s really cool to participate, and students can say ‘Hey, I participated in one of the top Thanksgiving Day Parades in the country,’” said Green.
Nearly 20 students and staff volunteered to carry the Kermit balloon. For many of the volunteers it was their first time escorting a balloon in the parade.
“It’s something I’ve never done before, and the last time I came to the parade was as a kid,” said J’Nel Stephens Dantzler, a sophomore majoring in global supply and chain management. “I wanted to come back and try something new.”
In order to prepare, volunteers had to rehearse and go to “balloon school” said Devon Sterk, Wayne State coordinator of student life, legacy and affinity programs.
Sterk was appointed the volunteer coordinator of the Kermit the Frog team and was a balloon handler as well. She said that the preparation process was imperative to a successful parade.
“Under the Kermit costume, heavy layering is encouraged,” said Sterk. While the actual parade may appear short on television, balloon-handlers spend several hours outside on Parade day,” During the balloon school sessions, new handlers learned how to maneuver the balloon and how to prepare for the cold.
“I bought lots of layers last week, and this morning I put them on to walk to Towers (Residence Hall) to see how warm I felt,” said Stephens Dantzler.
Wayne State’s role in the production of the Thanksgiving Day Parade also included hosting the costume and makeup department in the Student Center. Nearly every balloon handler prepared for the parade there. Green said that the student center’s location was the reason for hosting the costume and makeup department.
“All of the participants usually dress in the Student Center because that’s the central location. Then they go down to Palmer, where they can start off the parade,” said Green. “We have several rooms in the Student Center, so all of the volunteers come together there, and then they disperse from there to start with the lineup for the parade.”
The parade was broadcasted nationally reaching 140 cities in the country. Sterk said it was especially exciting this year because the parade kicked off on campus.
“As Wayne State continues to help bring energy to Detroit, this is a very special opportunity to celebrate and showcase Wayne State and Detroit.”