This Sunday, approximately 2,000 Detroiters and Detroit lovers will descend upon a parking lot in the city's midtown area to banish the Nain Rouge from the city. In Detroit lore, the Nain Rouge, or red dwarf, was first sighted by Detroit's founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, and has haunted Detroit as a harbinger of doom since the city's founding in 1701. Legend has it that the Nain Rouge has been sighted in Detroit shortly before every major calamity in the city's history.
This Sunday, to commemorate the spring equinox, the Nain Rouge is expected to appear at a "not-to-be-known" spot in the parking lot of the Traffic Jam & Snug, a popular midtown eatery. At that moment, the Nain Rouge will stand for much more than an "evil red gremlin" or a "harbinger of doom."
Among taunts and chants, the Nain Rouge will be banished from Detroit for at least the next year. With that banishing, he will represent the coming together of Detroiters of varied zip codes and creeds, who are gathering for a common purpose -- to celebrate anew in the city of Detroit -- its bright future, and all the good for which our great city is known.
The first Marche du Nain Rouge purportedly began more than 300 years ago and the modern day festival, which first took place in 2010, is an interpretation of the long-lost tradition. The marche that we all know and love was started by two of Detroit's finest, Francis Grunow and Joe Uhl. At that time Detroit was, yet again, plagued by some of its most severe Nain-inspired problems. Bankruptcy loomed amongst the pillars of our economy and some of our elected officials were spending more time in court than in office.
In the face of a perceivably downtrodden Detroit, many Detroiters and most of our nation had forgotten how far our city had come; that our city's motto -- Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus ("We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes") -- was a work in progress and we were already rising from the ashes. This transformative movement in Detroit, which was putting the new in Detroit's nouveau, was once again being overshadowed by Nain-induced negativity.
This was the impetus for Grunow and Uhl to create the Marche du Nain Rouge. As Detroiters, they recognized a need for their 700,000-some neighbors to join together to shed the bad and celebrate the future. They resolved to banish the Nain Rouge from the city. The first year's Marche was quickly planned and quickly gained street cred. In a matter of three months, a pop-up parade was inspired. It started at 3rd Street Bar's parking lot, where approximately 300 revelers showed.
These Detroiters came dressed in every way imaginable, (they were dressed in costumes so the Nain Rouge would not recognize them and seek revenge on them later) despite having no idea what to expect. Although only hearing of the marche through word of mouth and a few well-designed posters, they came to 3rd Street because there was a new experience to be had in the city; an experience to celebrate our resilience, the very reason for which they love Detroit.
The parade marched through the Cass Corridor and ended in Cass Park, where the sacred Nain-banishing ceremony took place. If you weren't one of the 300 revelers who witnessed the first banishing, you'll never see a ceremony of that caliber again -- another Nain Rouge happening like that may only live on in folklore.
Now, in its third year, old traditions are enjoying a continued revival while new traditions are being co-conspired as we prepare to once again banish the Nain Rouge from Detroit.
We expect 2,000 revelers. We've heard rumblings, from as far as our great capital (Lansing) to across great blue waters (Windsor), from people who are pledging their support and will join in our crusade to rid Detroit of evil. We expect chariots. Last year, there were nearly 10 chariots of all configurations and elaborations, representing the distinct qualities of Detroit's neighborhoods. This year, more neighborhoods will be put on wheels and ridden through the streets. We expect celebration. This year's marche will have a grand après la fête (after party) in the city's gothic Masonic Temple with music, food, drinks and festivities for all ages.
We expect more, Detroit. We're better than the city the Nain Rouge wants us to be. Let's make sure he knows that on March 25.