Ford Employees Help Bring America’s Thanksgiving Parade to Life

Nov 27, 2023

In 2006, Ford Product Development Engineer Ron Lovasz accompanied his daughter and her Girl Scout troop on a tour of the Parade Company Studio in Detroit, where the floats for America’s Thanksgiving Parade are brought to life. That visit sparked an interest that led to a 16-year commitment to the Ford Volunteer Corps and an ongoing relationship with one of the oldest and largest parade companies in the country. 

Lovasz was working with the Mustang Plant Vehicle Team (PVT) in Flat Rock at the time. He recruited a few colleagues from the PVT – including Mike Wroblewski, John Adams, Aaron Linford and Kendra Manduzzi. They called themselves Team Mustang, and they’ve been volunteering their time and talents to the Parade Company ever since. 

“We started out by cleaning up the area for the workers and then it progressed to painting the floats,” said Lovasz, who has been with Ford for 25 years. “Once they started to see what we could do, they gave us different, more difficult jobs, like woodworking.”

For the last 10 years, Lovasz and Team Mustang have been working to “deck the floats.” 

“The float structure is a rolling metal frame. We deck it with plywood and shape it to the way the float is designed,” explained Lovasz. “On top of that decking is where they start building the float with the various structures and figurines.”

Lovasz said the team has developed a strong working relationship with parade art directors over the years. 

“They rely on us a lot. They give us advanced drawings ahead of time, and they’re ready for us when we get there instead of coming up with odd jobs for us,” he said. “In October, we decked three floats in an eight-hour day.” 

Members of the original Mustang PVT all have different jobs at Ford now, but their devotion to volunteering – and getting together each year – remains the same. 

“It's like a reunion really because we were pretty tight when we worked together in Flat Rock. Coming together and working with each other toward a common goal is what it’s all about,” said Lovasz. “It’s a great cause. It’s challenging and very rewarding because you work on a float and then you see it going down the road in the parade. Over the years, we see more and more floats that we’ve touched.” 

Lovasz and Team Mustang worked on this year’s Ford float, a redesigned version of last year’s Michigan Central Station float that was expanded to include a front park. And not only did they work on the float, but they were asked to ride on it during Thursday’s parade.

“We were really excited about it,” said Lovasz. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” 

Ford and America’s Thanksgiving Parade

Ford Motor Company has been a sponsor of America’s Thanksgiving Parade for 13 years. As the official vehicle of the parade, Ford had more than 50 vehicles working in and along the parade route, including three Built Ford Tough trucks that led the entire parade down Woodward Avenue.

Ford employees help support the partnership with The Parade Company. Over the years, Ford employees have spent more than 15,000 hours volunteering and have worked on more than 230 different projects. 

The Ford Float

The Ford float, which debuted last year, showcases how Ford is “Powering the Community” in Detroit, both through great products and investing in communities.

The first section of the float features an illuminated replica of the iconic, reimagined train station, the centerpiece of Michigan Central, the 30-acre hub nestled between Detroit’s Corktown and Southwest neighborhoods. Ford purchased the building and began renovations in 2018. More than 1,000 LED lights illuminate the train station, which is 15 feet wide.

The middle section of the float represents how Ford and our partners plan to activate spaces for the community in and around Michigan Central. The greenery, benches and bridge demonstrate how Michigan Central will connect with surrounding neighborhoods.

The third section showcases the Ford Resource and Engagement Centers, which bring nonprofits, residents and community leaders together to support the surrounding neighborhood. With locations near the Michigan Central campus in Southwest Detroit and on the city’s East side, Ford’s community centers provide access to job training and placement services, tax and legal services, food distribution, youth programming and more.