On Sunday, March 20, this year’s Spring Equinox, thousands gathered in the streets of Midtown Detroit to join in celebration of the Marche Du Nain Rouge. This historic celebration’s purpose is to fight off the dark days of Detroit and to bring back life to the city with thousands of revelers spreading their positivity and arts. Nain Rouge, or the “red dwarf,” loves to appear in Detroit whenever he can. He explains himself on his website:
“Let me remind you of some of my greatest hits: Burning the city down, rebellions, ice storms, even sports teams that get oh so close to the playoffs and then Wham! Lose. Or, the Lions — just because. I’m always there to remind you about the bad things, just when you start feeling good or upbeat. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never make it work, Detroit.”
The celebration comes from an old tale about Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac’s desire to build a city on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701. Nain Rouge had appeared in Cadillac’s dream and so Cadillac sought advice from a fortune teller. The teller warned Cadillac that the appearance meant that he was destined to bad fortune before he’d ever see success. Cadillac ignored the warning and founded the city.
The legend holds that Cadillac eventually spotted Nain Rouge and tried to run him out of the city. As most of us can guess, Nain Rouge returned shortly after. Sightings of the red dwarf have been reported before the Battle of Bloody Run, the massive fire of 1805, during the War of 1812, the 12th Street Riot, and before the white-out blizzard of 1976.
In 2010, the community of Detroit held the first Marche Du Nain Rouge parade. Participants were encouraged to disguise themselves as Nain Rouge so he would not be able to identify those running him out of town and would prevent the dwarf from getting revenge later on. They burnt an effigy to deter the spirit from returning to the city ever again. The parade has happened every year since around the vernal equinox to ensure Nain Rouge stays away.
This year’s turnout was a huge success. Nain’s voice and face could be heard and seen everywhere.
“I’m the pothole you just stepped in!”
“I’m the bus coming minutes after the bus you just missed. Tomorrow!”
Participants dressed in red and black costumes of all sorts. I witnessed demons, angels, flower children, a drunken Gumby, a male demon-hooker, a half-naked unicorn man, Guy Fawkes and hundreds of other hellish creatures. Beyond the flood of alcoholic drinkers were blunt smokers, vapors, hippie crackers, and trippers. Everyone simply having fun and spreading nothing but joy and optimism.
Marchers began the parade in front of the Traffic Jam and Snug Restaurant at the corner of Second and Canfield around 1:30 pm. They marched to the Masonic Temple a few blocks away all the while dancing, singing, making music, and increasing personal inebriation.
Marchers near the end of the parade didn’t make it to the temple until almost three. Following the march was a main after-party inside the temple, with other parties held at local venues including The Old Miami and TV Lounge.
Although the event was created to break the hellish curse on Detroit, the environment was far from hellish. Blue skies, sunshine, and so much love for Detroit by those who support it. The event has been seen as Detroit’s Mardi Gras. Similar to how New Orleans used their annual Mardi Gras as a revival for the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. The Marche Du Nain Rouge is a similar festival to celebrate the revival of a city that has been so badly corrupted and ill-fated for decades.
Detroit is up and rising in a totally unique and beautiful way. Let’s just hope Nain Rouge stays away from Detroit and allows the city to rise to its capabilities, along with our neighbor community Flint.