Thanksgiving Day Parade floor: case study


Charlotte Center City Partners’s Robert Krumbine contacted me on November 7, 2014. He said he’d seen my hand-lettered chalk signs at 7th St. Public Market uptown, and he asked if I could paint a floor for the 2014 Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was 3 weeks away. Krumbine was the Chief Creative Officer and Executive Producer for the parade.


Original design by Evan Fernandes

I corresponded with Center City’s Director of Event Management, Damon Phillips, and Evan Fernandes, a designer for the project. We discussed details of the project before I agreed. I did a number of tests on a sample of the flooring to establish feasibility, determine a process and build a budget. I submitted a bid, and we set a schedule and finalized the design. I had the job.

More importantly, I had a plan of attack for the massive project. I wrote up a contract and secured a deposit a week after the first e-mail.

test panel to determine process

test panel to determine process

The snap-together polypropylene floor was an ideal solution for the event planners, but required some creativity and experimentation to create a durable, well-bonded surface. During our week of planning I tried all sorts of coating techniques before I found a satisfactory solution.

floor assembly

floor assembly in warehouse

The clients provided the design, a stencil and a rented warehouse to work in. The stencil was essentially a 24′ X 32′ shower curtain, with notches cut along the boundaries of each shape in the design. It’s the same method used to paint large-scale graphics on athletic fields, and it made layout much, much easier.

I had purchased supplies and hired a helper by the time we had our space. Work started on Friday evening, November 14, 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and we hit the ground running.

priming floor

priming the floor


spent cans of primer


laying down the white underbase between primer and topcoat

stencil tracing

Hannah Scholze traces outlines through the stencil.

My assistant, Hannah, and I outlined the design area using the giant stencil, sprayed a special plastic primer and rolled in a white underbase. Next, we used the stencil to mark out boundaries in chalk.


roughing in the gold letters


We tightened up the design by edging in with aubergine.

We added grit to the floor enamel to improve traction, and we laid down Novant’s colors from light to dark: white, then gold, then aubergine and gray. Each color went down in two coats. Lastly, we wrapped up the project with a day of touch-ups.

We used sticky notes to mark spots for touch-up.

Sticky notes highlighted spots for touch-up.

Thanksgiving floor almost done

Altogether, the project required 6 days, 80 hours of labor and eight trips to supply stores.

All the effort paid off. We finished the project on Thursday, November 20, 4 days ahead of deadline and a week before the parade. That allowed a week for the enamel to cure completely, and my colleagues at Charlotte Center City Partners were able to breathe a sigh of relief. They were thrilled with the appearance of the floor.

floor disassembly

The floor came apart in four-foot sections for transport to Tryon St. & Levine Ave.

See the floor in action:

The floor handily withstood the many floats and marchers in the parade, and a crew disassembled the floor and packed it into storage for re-use.

I worked hard to make this project a success through careful planning, thorough communication and diligent work. The project was as much on-the-fly problem solving and project management as sign painting. I gained invaluable experience planning, administrating and executing a large-scale operation. It was intensely rewarding.

I’m glad to share credit with the other professionals who made this project possible: Damon Phillips for his oversight and responsiveness, Evan Fernandes for his design, stencil procurement and project management, graphic design intern Daniel Hilsin and Robert Krumbine with the rest of Charlotte Center City Partners. My assistant Hannah Scholze was indispensable. She is a media arts student at Queens University whom I met through graphic design professor Mike Wirth.

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