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Marche du Nain Rouge returns March 26 to Detroit's Cass Corridor

Mardi Gras-style krewes, bike groups, cosplayers, art cars to join annual parade

The Nain rides his cockroach car to the Masonic Temple in 2015. Credit Steven Pham
The Nain rides his cockroach car to the Masonic Temple in 2015. Credit Steven Pham

DETROIT – It's the time of year when the city swells with pride and hits Cass Avenue to meet its oldest nemesis, the legendary harbinger of doom, the Nain Rouge.

The annual Marche du Nain Rouge returns for its 8th year, with festivities and entertainment starting at noon March 26, 2017, at the corner of Cass and Canfield in Midtown. The parade will depart at 1 p.m. down Cass Avenue to the Masonic Temple.

At the Masonic Temple, marchers will meet the Nain, if he once again decides to show his face. In past years he’s ridden on a giant cockroach, tamed a fire-breathing dragon, run for mayor, among other shenanigans. The Nain has been met by young Detroiters in love, Ghostbusters, and spirits of Detroit’s past and future. What will he try this year? And more importantly, how will you face the Nain?

This year, Mardi-Gras-style Krewes du Rouge are forming to show the Nain their neighborhood pride. Two krewe parties are planned: March 16 for East Siders at 8 p.m. at Cadieux Cafe, and March 23 for Midtowners at 8 p.m. at Traffic Jam & Snug. The parties feature live music, food, drinks, and fun appearances -- perhaps the Nain will even attempt to crash. It’s a weakly constructed mystery!

Several bike groups are planning to decorate their wheels and roll down Cass together, featuring the wonderful animal creations of Detroit-based metalsmith, Juan Martinez. A recent workshop of the Wire Auto Workers Association of Detroit (WAWAD) will bring out hand-crafted, human-powered wire cars.

Also this year, the cockroach from 2016 will be joined by several other Art Cars, including a new “Bubblemobile” out of Southwest Detroit, and Scrubby Bubble, which has represented Detroit at the Annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Plus, Caribbean Mardi Gras Productions will return with feathery floats and giant sparkly costumes ready to accompany their Pans of Joy steel drum band. And our friends at Gabriel Brass Band will return to lead the Marche with their authentic New Orleans second-line sound.

Adding to the spectacle, the Marche du Nain Rouge is inviting all cosplayers and costume-lovers to put on their best capes and wigs and join the fun. Prizes will be offered at the after-party festivities inside the Masonic for the best cosplayer/costume and neighborhood float. There will also be entertainment from DJs, dancing food, drink, official merchandise, a kids zone, and more.

To get Detroiters in the right spirit to meet the Nain, businesses are taking part in Fete du Nain with a full week of merriment and good city vibes. Check www.marchedunainrouge.com and our Facebook page for  participating businesses.

More than 6,000 people attended last year’s parade, compared with 300 who came to the first parade!

Revelers are encouraged to come in costume. The event is free and open to the public.

Parking will be available on the street, and for $7.50 at nearby Wayne State University lots and structures (Lots 60 and 72 and Structure 8). Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

Some history

In 1701, legendary founder of Detroit Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac met a fortune-teller, who warned him to beware of the Nain Rouge, the “Red Dwarf” who appeared to Cadillac in a dream. She warned Cadillac that the the little red imp is the embodiment of his ambition, anger, pride, envy — everything that held him back. The Nain Rouge, she told him, is the harbinger of doom. However, when Cadillac first saw the fiend in person, the Nain taunted him mercilessly and Cadillac chased the Nain away with a stick.

Unfortunately, the fortune turned out to be true and Cadillac died penniless after he left Detroit for France. The city he founded, however, fared better, endured and prospered (mostly), against the fiendish efforts of the Nain Rouge.

For 300 years, Detroiters memorialized Cadillac’s actions and willingness to persevere and hope for better things, combined with the determination to rise from the ashes. At Detroit’s worst moments, the Nain has been there, cackling or taunting the city’s residents. And so every year, Detroiters celebrate liberation from the Nain, a new beginning, and whatever is good and working in the city in a spring festival for the good and betterment of the city of Detroit.