October 2, 2008
When it comes to Michigan traditions, nothing can compare to America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Parade Company, an organization that is responsible for the Parade, Target Fireworks and more was featured on Corp!’s cover 10 years ago. Joan A. LeMahieu has served as president of The Parade Company since 2004, and while she may not have grown up in Michigan, she certainly understands the importance of keeping these Michigan traditions alive.
Corp!: You grew up in Canada and lived and worked in many states throughout America. What are some of the positive business opportunities that you have found in Michigan?
LeMahieu: There is a wonderful community spirit in Michigan. People are committed to helping others. They are committed to tradition. People are open, inviting and interesting. I really enjoy working here in Michigan.
Corp!: What are some of the changes at The Parade Company since being featured on the cover of Corp! 10 years ago?
LeMahieu: We have diversified our organization. Our focus now includes several mini-businesses that support our efforts. We design and build floats for other parades. We create costumes for mascots and theatrical events. We create props for big events like the Super Bowl and All Star Game and we host and manage events for other organizations. But what hasn’t changed is our commitment to maintaining these cherished traditions in Detroit.
Corp!: What is the impact of the Parade and Fireworks on our economy and the community?
LeMahieu: The Parade and the Fireworks bring people together from all walks of life. These events are free and they attract people to downtown Detroit. Businesses throughout the city benefit as well as nonprofit organizations that hold fundraisers in conjunction with these events.
Corp!: How do you keep the Parade fresh and new every year?
LeMahieu: It is a challenge and a joy to maintain traditional favorites while coming up with new and fresh ideas. We have a wonderful and creative staff.
Corp!: How do you motivate your team to keep their creative spark?
LeMahieu: I encourage my staff to go to other parades and events in Michigan and throughout the country. We also have an inspiration room where we post new ideas and pictures so that we have inspiration all around us. We find ideas in everyday life. We have fun and we let the creativity happen.
Corp!: The Distinguished Clown Corps is a definite crowd pleaser. When filling these positions what qualities do you look for?
LeMahieu: They have to be leaders in the community and be committed to the tradition of the parade. Once they are in the clown costume and makeup, the fun and excitement takes over. They have told me that seeing the joy on the children’s faces is very rewarding.
Corp!: What is your favorite parade float and why?
LeMahieu: I like all of them. They are all unique and fun in their own way.
Corp!: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
LeMahieu: My first paying job was picking raspberries. It was very boring work and I learned I better get an education so that I could get a good job.
Corp!: What is the best advice you can offer to others?
LeMahieu: Love what you do. Life isn’t perfect. Find the good in every situation. Cherish it and be passionate about it.