"HUGE THANK YOU for all your hard work and vision! We LOVE our octopus bus!"

-Rachel LeFevre-Snee, Shedd Aquarium

Parade Entry for Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

We were invited to conceive and execute Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium parade entry for the city’s relatively new Arts in the Dark Halloween-time parade and additionally,  the established seasonal Festival of Lights parade. Shedd’s marketing campaign at the time “Unbelievable Lives Here” featured an octopus. This inspired our concept of utilizing a double decker bus with giant octopus tentacles emerging from within. This idea was truly ideal from both a practical and impactful perspective.  It would create a very large and impressive entry, but travel to the parade location in a compact and safe form due to the inflatable elements.  It’s also appropriately themed for both the Shedd Aquarium and the Halloween season. 

The Shedd’s existing relationship with wonderful folks at Chicago Trolley could provide the vehicle. Unlike most parade floats, It would be both adaptable and largely re-useable. It felt like a winning concept and we were thrilled that the Shedd approved it. With just over a month from confirmation to the parade, there was just enough time to execute this concept, but we loved the idea so much that we were happy to put in the extra coordination effort. 

This project involved plenty of unconventional and creative engineering, and along with most parade float designs… a healthy dose of good luck!

Round 2: Festival of Lights Parade

It remained uncertain if we would be able to utilize the double decker bus again for the Festival of Lights parade due to availability. The best alternative was a trolley, and while creating a more charming and holiday appropriate vessel, it posed a whole new set of challenges. While the double decker bus offered an entire second level of safe and secure rigging points along with places to hide equipment, we had only a few inches to work with on top of the trolley. In addition to structural requirements, the illusion of an octopus inside the vehicle is broken if the tentacles appear to be severed (not to mention what message that sends for an aquarium). All rooftop tentacles had to be full secured, flush to the rooftop, with limited additional support options. This was no small feat. Additionally, all of the custom-built lighting rigs had to be re-engineered for the new vehicle. 

On the very cold parade day, it rained right up until commencement . While we always consider the possiblity of rain,  it adds stresses to an already ambitious float. Strong wind gusts also created some hair-raising tension, but the float ultimately prevailed, becoming a favorite for many spectators.