From friend of the library, Edna...
Detroit boy's winning design will be float in Thanksgiving parade
By KRISTA JAHNKE
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
When 13-year-old Za'Cyrus Gaiter closed his eyes and pictured his dream neighborhood, it had necessities like a hospital and library, but also a roller coaster winding its way through downtown, a Ferris wheel and a science center.
Za'Cyrus, a student at Duke Ellington Conservatory on Detroit's east side, put colored pencil to paper and drew that vision for his eighth-grade art class. His teacher, Patrice Wilson, submitted it as an entry in the annual Skillman Foundation Float Design Contest. Za'Cyrus called his float "Dreams Do Come True."
On Thursday, Za'Cyrus stood in the Parade Co.'s headquarters with his parents and four siblings and saw that for himself. He was announced as the winner of the 19th annual float design contest. And he will ride that dream-turned-to-life down Woodward Avenue next week in America's Thanksgiving Parade, which begins at 9:20 a.m.
"It's wonderful," his mother, 33-year-old Elonia Gaiter, said after seeing it unveiled for the first time. "Better than I expected."
A spiky-haired kid with buck teeth sits on the front of the float. Behind him is the neighborhood of Za'Cyrus' imagination: a book-shaped library, a science center with a spaceship on top, a tall mall, a spiraling roller coaster, an ice-cream stand and a hospital. Towering over it all, a twirling, turning Ferris wheel.
"Our art teacher gave us a vision and said to make it different," Za'Cyrus said. "She said to make it a neighborhood you'd like to live in. This seems like it would be a fun place to live."
It was the first year Za'Cyrus entered the contest, but he said he's been interested in drawing since kindergarten. His parents both draw, too. Elonia Gaiter draws clothing, and dad Walter Gaiter said he draws mostly cars.
"We've been trying to steer them into areas they should be, and all of our children are artists," Elonia Gaiter said. "I'm so glad that this happened, because when the world tells him he has talent, it's different. With parents, it's just us trying to encourage him. But this makes it more real."
Unlike previous years, Skillman and the Parade Co. didn't hold a contest for a balloon design this year.
"We decided together we wouldn't put the money into purchasing a balloon," said parade CEO Tony Michaels, who called Za'Cyrus' design "a feel-good vision."
"We'd put it into bolder, bigger floats and do things more creatively here at the Parade Co., because we don't make balloons here."
Contact Krista Jahnke: 313-222-8854 or kjahnke @freepress.com