They help light up your homes, and now some DTE linemen are lighting up several community parades this holiday season with a Santa-dazzled truck that would make Clark Griswold proud. You’ll have a hard time missing the customized DTE truck as it is decked out with enough Christmas cheer to light up the North pole, and you’ll hear it coming with carols booming out of PA speakers, so parade goers can merrily sing along.
“It’s become quite the spectacle,” said Carl Simm, a long time DTE journeyman and longest standing member of the DTE truck decorating crew. “So much so that this year we added a third guy to the crew to help decorate it.”
Three DTE linemen from different areas in the region come together to volunteer a week of hard work and a dedication to the Christmas spirit that would give Buddy the Elf a run for his money. They start off with drawings, brainstorming sessions and photos of ways to top the previous year, and some 30,000 lights later, the truck is ready to be driven—carefully—to become a main draw at community parades. This year the team is Carl Simm, a lineman at the Redford Service Center, along with Jason Barnett and Chris Simm, both linemen at the Newport Service Center.
“It’s a ton of work, honestly.” Simm said. “But the look on the kids’ faces is what keeps us doing it every year. It’s priceless.”
It’s a tradition that stretches back to the 90s when a couple of a crew members out of the Newport service center took the initiative to decorate a bucket truck on their own dime to spread some cheer in a local Ida parade. It wasn’t quite the spectacle it is now but it got big reactions from the community and big smiles from children as the crew threw out candy from the truck. From there, it kept evolving.
“We just started adding a little each year,” Simm said in a Newport service center warehouse where the parade truck and a 10-foot trailer it would pull along were being decorated by the team. “At first it was just some lights that I went and bought myself or had at my house. But it’s grown into something pretty neat that we’re proud of.”
The first parade of the season is the annual Allen Park city parade the week before Thanksgiving. The truck makes its way to other parades throughout the season (Simm said they only hit evening parades so the truck has the greatest effect) and one of the biggest highlights every year is getting to participate in the Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams event for kids at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. During this event pediatric patients shine flashlights from hospital windows and look for community members standing outside the hospital to flash them back.
“We’re doing what DTE does every day, and that is serving our community with our energy. Not only the energy that this truck is giving off, but our personal energy to contribute and do the best we can to help our neighborhoods and bring smiles to peoples’ faces,” Simm said.
Below are some fun facts on the DTE holiday parade truck as well as the current parade schedule in case your family is at one of these events:
-It takes eight days for a three-man crew to fully decorate the truck and the trailer.
-Just under 30,000 lights are on the truck (not including inflatables and lawn fixtures attached all over the truck)
-700 feet of extension cord
-400-500 feet of #6 copper wire
-Nearly 2,500 zip ties
-It runs on a 7000w generator. It used to run on two 6000w generators. But as older light fixtures are replaced with new and more efficient LED lighting, this is the first year the team has gotten it down to one 7000w generator.
-The parade truck has become such a staple of the Newport Service Center that when it was remodeled in 2020, a large mural of the truck was put in the lobby.
-When fully decorated, the truck’s top speed is 45 miles per hour (though it is rarely driven beyond half this speed).
Nov. 19 – Allen Park Parade
Dec. 4 – Ida Parade (Fireworks at 6:30 PM. Parade starts at 7 PM)
Dec. 11 – Carleton Parade (Begins at Ash Park at 4 PM and arrives Santa around the city)
Dec. 15 – Newport Parade (Parade starts at 7 PM)