La 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.
You can read more at the link above and also check out Detroit Moxie’s feature on the Nain Rouge and our Absolute Michigan Weird Wednesday feature on the Nain Rouge.
For more check out Vanessa Miller’s 2011 March du nain rouge slideshow from and also this gallery of photos. The sound is a little sharp in this video but it gives you a great overall look at The March of the Nain Rouge!