“Just making people happy … (that’s) the true meaning of Christmas.”
–Mark Harris, Triangle Float Company owner
by Mimi Montgomery
photograph by Annie Cockrill
Mark Harris, 52, has worked with floats pretty much his whole life.
When he was a child, his father worked part-time pulling floats for a local company, and when Harris got his driver’s license at 16, he joined in. When the float company they worked for no longer had room to store all its floats, the owner told Harris’s father that if he built a structure to house the floats, he could become a partner in the business.
Eventually, his father bought the entire business, and Triangle Float Company has been in the family ever since. “Basically, I was born into it,” Harris says. “Whatever Dad did, that’s what the family did, and so that’s what we’ve always done.”
It continues to be a family affair: Harris’s father is now retired, and Harris runs the Wilton-based business on weekends on top of a full-time job in an unrelated field. Harris’s wife, son, daughter, brother, sister-in-law, nephews, and nieces help, too, and they’ve all employed some of the same people for years. The company provides floats all across the Piedmont for beauty pageants, dance groups, homecomings, Fourth of July parades, and more.
It can be a lot of work. The group constructed all 45 of the company’s floats themselves, assembling the wagons with wooden frames and fiberglass covered in sheeting and colorful fringe. Materials constantly need to be updated and refreshed, especially during the busy seasons, when a town may want to rent three or four floats at a time.
But it’s the Raleigh Christmas parade that holds a special place in Harris’s heart. The company normally supplies around 30 floats, making it their biggest one-day event. “It takes a lot of preparation,” he says, “and a lot of work on a lot of people’s part.” But continuing his father’s legacy is worth it. “Dad’s only request is ‘Keep it going,’” he says. “So that’s what we do – we keep it going.”
See some of the Triangle Float Company floats at the WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade Nov. 19; 9:40 a.m.; begins on the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets; trianglefloat.com