this is for a parade and needs to be big
As long as you plan to keep it indoors when not in the parade, I'd go with chicken wire and paper mache. It will be cheap and lightweight, and once painted it will look good. If you need the pot extra smooth, a coat of spackle would probably do the trick. If you plan to store the float outside in all weather this won't hold up, but it is fine if it is in a garage or storage unit.
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You would need to build some kind of frame out of wood, gauge or steel (depending on what will be placed on the outside). With the frame in place you can go one of two routes, either build directly onto the frame (papermache) or build a sort of mould. The former is pretty self explanatory, papermache and paint. For the latter you make your shape in clay, then place fibreglass mats over the clay and paint that with resin. Once the resin is dry you cut it off and discard the clay/metal. Reassemble the fibreglass and paint as desired.