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Marche Madness or Detroit’s love/hate relationship with the naughty Nain Rouge

Everybody loves a Bad Boy – and the Nain Rouge is the epitome of a shady yet sexy ghoul that girls cannot get enough of, it seems.

Or women. Or men. Or families. Thank goodness for the Nain’s badness. Because if that awful haint ever left Detroit, the spring occasion known as the Marche de le Nain Rouge would cease to exist. And I’ll speak for most people who have become regulars at this March 25 event – we will do whatever it takes to keep the paranormal a normal part of our lives.

Dante Stella

“The even has grown so quickly, so each year we try to accommodate more people,” said Peter Van Dyke, the organizer and keeper of the flame that burns bright red…some might say it is a devilish rouge.

Upon its third year, the Marche is bigger, bolder and more bombastic than ever. There is a pre-party at Traffic Jam and Snug. There are Marche specials at awesome Detroit retailers and service companies such as Wheelhouse Detroit. There is the Marche itself – and the many after-events at bars, shops and the magnificent Masonic Temple. And it all takes place in and around Cass Park and Midtown areas.

There are family-friendly areas. And there are some very un-family-friendly areas. And that, Dear Readers, is exactly the way it should be. Because at its core the Marche de le Nain Rouge is a Bacchanalian celebration – a celebration of the city, its hard-core businesses, the war-worn entrepreneurs, the savvy souls that care about what happens in this hard-luck town, the sick, the depraved and those who are free for a few hours to show that they care about Detroit and its brethren. So they may banish the vain Nain in spirit…but we are all enjoying the tainted love he brings.

I spoke this week with Van Dyke, and he admitted to me that he is feeling slightly nervous this time around. No, he’s not worried about what everyone will wear or carry or protest (because, yes, there are protestors who want to keep the Nain around – but for the wrong reasons. More on that later.).

Instead, he has this slight fear that everyone might just act mature or leave their kids at home or fail to show up at all. I reassured him, for what it is worth, that there is no way this scenario will ever happen.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the day will go down. The event starts…well, let’s say it starts the night before with the Traffic Jam’s Kickoff Party. This Mardi Gras-style crawfish boil is open to everyone. Oh, and don’t forget Curl Up and Dye’s signature red “Nainicure” in the week before the Marche. And Wheelhouse’s offer (only this weekend!) to tune up your bike for $35 if you declare, “Get that Nain off my back!”

If you want to be picky, it really starts…first thing in the morning on Sunday, March 25. You should come into the city if you’re a suburbanite and have breakfast. If you live in the city, you should do the same. For example, Avalon International Breads are selling special Red Nain Rouge Whoopie Pies. Afterward, head over to City Bird and Nest to check out the costume-making party. If you’re looking for some intoxicants, the Bronx Bar is having a special on Bloody Marys. Just sayin’.

Then everyone will converge around 1 p.m. in the Traffic Jam’s parking lot. There, a historical host (if tradition serves) will explain the Nain. He will draw out the evil spirit, who will taunt the crowd. Community-created chariots will band revelers together in protest of the Nain’s long-time cruelty toward Detroit.

Then, the mass of an estimated 2,000 people (hey, let’s try to get 3,000 or more there!) will trod down North Cass Corridor and Cass Avenue. The Detroit Party Marching Band will lead the marchers to Temple Street, where the official banishment will take place. The goal, after all, is to rid Detroit of this vile Nain and get us some good tidings. Go slowly…it’s worth it. There’s so much to see that there’s no need to rush.

Weather permitting, there will be endless fun outside at Cass Park. The weather has been particularly agreeable, Van Dyke said. But, “As the Nain would have it, it probably will be snowing that day,” he added. So in that case – or in any case – the official “près la fête” will take place inside the Masonic Temple’s Fountain Ballroom. It will include music with DJ Amy Dreamcatcher, Lady Fantastic and DJ MV. The food provided by Slows-to-Go. And there will be kids’ activities – all “G” rated, mind you.

To plagiarize from myself…A little history: Joe Uhl and Francis Grunow and their friends came up with the idea of reviving the parade to march the evil Red Dwarf out of Detroit in January 2010. These historians knew of the old legend – that of little dark cloud known as the Nain Rouge from Detroit and all of the bad tidings he is said to have brought with him.

In the past, people had tried to drive the spirit out…but look around. They clearly failed. So the idea was hatched. New Orleans had Marti Gras, Detroit would have the Marche. It would be equal parts healing and hedonistic. Plus, it brought people out for the Spring Equinox and for Detroit. Those who attended had a blast. Even the Metro Times called it the city’s Best New Tradition.

So look for the sweet protestors – who will be angry that the civilized types in attendance are trying to put the Nain down. Look for the guy with the giant Joe Louis fist attached at his mid-section. Look for the man covered in “murder bears.” They’ll probably be there. And make sure you stay around afterward and buy some books, some souvenirs and some dinner nearby. Those are the best ways to ensure businesses stay and the Nain loses.

“The job of the organizing committee is to set the stage; the community creates the theater,” Van Dyke told me.

Let’s not let him down.

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