How to Marche du Nain Rouge in Detroit

May 5, 2017  |   Story by Stephanie Angelyn Casola  |   Photos by Steven Pham

New Orleans may have its Mardi Gras parade but in Detroit our celebration of spring is centered around a collective effort to banish the legendary harbinger of doom known as the Nain Rouge. The angry red dwarf threatens doom on the citizens of Detroit, and might get away with it, were it not for the crowds that gleefully gather and march to rid the city of the Nain Rouge, protecting Detroit for yet another year.

When?

Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 1 p.m.

Where?

The parade festivities begin at the corner of Canfield and Second Avenue in Midtown.

Who?

The founders of The Marche du Nain Rouge expect more than 6,000 people will take part in this year’s parade. Attendees include residents, families, visitors and those who travel thousands of miles just to join in the parade. “We have families bringing kids, neighbors from Midtown come out with their dogs for a walk,” said Grunow. “People are driving from Alabama. We had a guy fly every year from Denmark.”

The parade is free to those who wish to join. It offers a chance to escape the confines of winter, create a costume, meet new people and to celebrate the city of Detroit. A welcoming spirit can be expected at the Marche.

What’s the significance?

The Marche du Nain Rouge is based on Detroit’s first myth, the legend of the Nain Rouge, often referred to as Detroit’s original “harbinger of doom”.  As legend has it, in 1701 the founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, met a fortune-teller who warned him to beware of the Nain Rouge. She said the red dwarf – who appeared to Cadillac in a dream – was the embodiment of his pride, anger and envy – all the qualities that held him back in life. When Cadillac encountered the red dwarf, he chased the imp away with a stick, showing his courage and a willingness to endure. These are qualities that characterize Detroiters to this day, and the qualities celebrated at this annual event.

“We use the Nain’s ill temper and disdain for Detroit to bring Detroiters together once a year, to celebrate spring and to drive out the bad feelings that tend to pile up over the course of winter and the previous year.”

-Francis Grunow, co-founder and organizer of the Marche

The Marche du Nain Rouge is made possible by its organizers, attendees and of course, the sponsors. Midtown Detroit Inc. has served as a sponsor since the beginning. Longtime supporting businesses also include: Traffic Jam & Snug, Zipcar, Roxbury Group, Motor City Brewing Works and HopCat.

As always Marche organizers host a “Best of” awards for costumes and floats participating in the parade. Past winners included neighborhood organizations that demonstrated how they are “doing good things in Detroit’s neighborhoods,” according to Grunow. Expect to see this tradition return during the 2017 event.

Still wondering what to expect come March 26th?

“The Marche is like an afternoon of Halloween meets Mardi Gras, with a splash of Burning Man,” said Grunow.

Mentioned Attractions And Venues
  1. Midtown Detroit
    3939 Woodward Ave., Ste. 100, Detroit, MI 48201313-420-6000 Highlight on map | More Details
  2. Traffic Jam & Snug
    511 W. Canfield St., Detroit, MI 48201313-831-9470 Highlight on map | More Details
  3. Motor City Brewing Works
    470 W. Canfield St., Detroit, MI 48201313-832-2700 Highlight on map | More Details
  4. HopCat Detroit
    4265 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201313-769-8828 Highlight on map | More Details