On March 23th at 1:00pm a unique event starts in Detroit, The Marche du Nain Rouge. A once a year parade that focuses on driving the Red dwarf or Nain rouge from Detroit.
The legend of the red dwarf states that whenever it has been seen in the past great tragedies have happened in Detroit. The events started from a chance in encounter in Detroits earliest beginnings.
The first recorded sighting of Le Nain Rouge occurred when Detroit founder Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac took a stroll with his wife through the Royal Garden just outside Fort Pontchartrain’s walls. Le Nain crossed Cadillac’s path, shrieking at Cadillac as if to confront him. In response Cadillac took his cane to Le Nain and drove it off. As Le Nain retreated, it cursed Cadillac. There have been numerous sightings since.
After the incident, Cadillac’s luck soon took a turn for the worse. A political rival of Cadillac convinced the French Government to indict him on charges of illegal trafficking. This resulted in Cadillac’s removal from power and imprisonment. And even though his name was eventually cleared, Cadillac’s fortunes were never the same. He died in France still trying to establish his land claims in Detroit.
Since that first encounter, several other events have taken place with the red dwarf being spotted before hand. Other sightings include the day before the 12th Street Riot in 1967 and before a huge snow/ice storm of March 1976, when two utility workers are said to have seen what they thought was a child climbing a utility pole which then jumped from the top of the pole and ran away as they approached.
The red dwarf is described as being small and child-sized, wearing brown clothing with red or black fur boots. It is said to have blazing red eyes and rotten teeth.
“ The Marche du Nain Rouge is an annual Detroit tradition that purportedly dates back to shortly after the city’s founding by the French in 1701. Annually held on the Sunday closest to the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, it is parade and street theater similar in sensibility to Mardi Gras and other Carnival celebrations. However the impetus for La Marche is different.
La Marche drives Le Nain Rouge (The Red Dwarf) out of Detroit, preventing its evil spirit from plaguing the people of the city for the rest of the year. By forcing Le Nain Rouge from the city (and into the spirit plane), Le Nain is banished, transforming Detroiters’ fears and doubts into the hopes of new life and the coming Spring season.
Tradition holds that a citizen of Detroit dresses up as Le Nain Rouge, temporarily embodying its spirit, wearing a mask to conceal identity. As Le Nain Rouge, this person accepts responsibility for leading people through the streets of Detroit to La Marche’s final destination.
Le Nain Rouge is followed by a contingent of twelve Detroiters, known as La Bande du Nains. La Bande du Nains is made up of a man, a woman and a child who claim heritage in each of the world’s historic continents – Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. La Bande du Nains carry sticks, canes, pots and pans, dress in 18th Century garb and represent the original Detroiters who took the initiative to drive Le Nain out of Detroit.
Following Le Nain and La Bande du Nains is a group of musicians. The ensemble positions itself as a transition between the 13 figures at the head of La Marche and the rest of the parade’s participants. The music played during La Marche has evolved and infused many traditions from the people of Detroit. Most recently the music and spirit of the band is akin to that of a jazz funeral march, featuring drums and horns.
The rest of La Marche follows the musicians’ lead, and is comprised of individuals on foot and on decorated floats. Participants dress up in a wide range of costume, from historical to political figures, from supernatural creatures to abstracted ideas. Creative expression and abandoned inhibition is flaunted. Costumes relate to assuming a new persona so that one can participate in banishing Le Nain Rouge without retribution.
La Marche du Nain Rouge begins inland and follows a north to south route, tracing the historic French ribbon farms toward the river. Although early versions of the La Marche drove Le Nain into the river, Cass Park was chosen as a new location in the 19th Century, and a bonfire was favored as a way to banish Le Nain (since water is ineffective).
The Legend of the Nain Rouge
Detroit has had many infamous characters to it's credit over the years but few go as far back as The Nain rouge or The Red Dwarf. Making his first appearance in 1701, The Nain rouge has wreaked havoc
in Detroit ever since.
The First reported encounter with the Nain rouge was by Antoine de la mothe Cadillac, who made the mistake of battling with the Nain rouge. Cadillac soon afterwards was beset with failure and lost his entire fortune.
The Nain Rouge was next seen during the battle of bloody run, Fifty eight British soldiers lost their lives at the hands of Chief Pontiac's tribe. The Nain rouge was seen dancing along the banks of the river before the battle and cackling at the soliders. The small tributary that feeds into Elmwood cemetery from the Detroit river ran red for days from the blood that was spilled.
The Nain rouge was present during Detroit's involvement in the battle of 1812. His appearance is said to have been enough to make General William Hull surrender his fort after he saw the red eyes of the Nain rouge glaring at him through a fog. General William Hull was the only officer in American History to be sentenced to death for military incompetence.
The Nain rouge has been spotted several times before many of Detroit's tragedy, in 1805 on June 11, People saw the dwarf walking through the streets of Detroit, a fire burned most of the town afterwards
and Someone saw the dwarf before the week long 12th street riots started in 1967.
The Nain Rouge was seen climbing up a utility pole by two utility workers on March 1, 1976. Shortly after that, Detroit was hit with one of the worst ice storms the city had ever seen. The whole city experienced a complete blackout.
While many may dismiss the Nain Rouge as just a folk tale of Detroit, Many do believe in him to the point where each march a parade called March Du Nain Rouge is held to chase the Nain rouge and it's negativity from Detroit, in hopes that prosperity will return to Detroit.
Many wonder when the Nain rouge will once again be seen, the small child-sized red eyed creature with rotten teeth and red or black fur boots. Will this Detroit Legend make another appearance and what will happen afterwards?
THE FESTIVAL DU NAIN ROUGE
On the weekend of March 23, join 4,000 revelers to celebrate the one year anniversary of the departure of the Nain Rouge, the fiendish imp intent on ruining Detroit. Hopefully he will leave us in peace in 2014…
THE MAIN EVENT: LE MARCHE DU NAIN ROUGE
The Marche du Nain Rouge proper begins at 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Traffic Jam & Snug, 511 W. Canfield St., as revelers celebrate the spring equionox and lay a solid groundwork for hope for the upcoming year, just in case the Nain should try something dastardly.
The Marche processes along Cass Avenue through the North Cass Corridor
Revelers are encouraged to come masked or fully costumed; groups are encouraged to join in the fun with DIY chariots.
There is no cost, just come out and have a good time.
When the parade is done, stick around for the after parties! Check out the list below.
THE RUN DU NAIN ROUGE
This year’s Marche begins with a run – the second annual Run du Nain Rouge, brought to you by the good folks at Tour de Troit.
The 5k run begins at 11 a.m., at the corner of Cass and Canfield.
The fee for the run (the Marche is free) is $35, which includes a t-shirt.
The top 10 (and bottom 15) runners will win prizes from City Bird.
Click here to register.
A PRÈS LA FÊTE (AFTER PARTIES)
What’s the word? After parties.
Nothing Elegant at the Old Miami, 3930 Cass Ave.
Check back for additional after-party locations.
The Marche du Nain Rouge is calling for all Detroiters to get involved! Anyone is invited to join the Marche. For those who want to get involved by building a chariot or performing at the Marche in any way (marching band, belly dancing, miming, etc.) please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information please visit http://marchedunainrouge.com