Decorating a Rose Parade Float has always fascinated me. For years, I have enjoyed viewing the floats up close after the parade, when they are lined up on East Sierra Madre Blvd. Years ago, it used be a rather informal process – and free – but now it’s more structured and tickets are $20. One year, I was invited to view the floats being completed just days before the parade. But this year, public viewing of float decorating been cancelled due to COVID.
So I jumped at the chance to help decorate Rotary International’s Rose Parade Float when Wilshire Rotary President Joyce Kleifield asked for volunteers, though I had no idea what to expect! Let me just say, I now have a much deeper appreciation for the level of detail and precision that goes into creating these amazing works of floral art. It was also way more tedious than I thought it would be, but still I can honestly say it was very cool and definitely something I would recommend to anyone who is curious.
Despite reservations about COVID, my daughter Emily and I arrived at the Phoenix Decorating Company warehouse in Irwindale early Sunday morning, along with hundreds of other volunteers (mostly masked), for our four-hour shift. After a brief check-in, we met our crew supervisor, Tanya, a high school biology teacher and veteran float decorator.
At this stage, the floats have been designed and manufactured. They are sitting in the warehouse ready for decoration. The first phase is covering the floats with the small seeds and flower petals that form the colorful base of the floats. As parade day approaches, whole flowers and more perishable items are placed on the float.
According to our supervisor, we were assigned the most important job — preparing flowers. Our job was to cut off the petals from the stem of thousands of Statice flowers. Without the petals, there would be no float, explained Tanya. After quite some time cutting flowers, Tanya offered us opportunities to do various other decorating jobs on the float. She was masterful at keeping us engaged and encouraged, despite the tedium of the work. Her training as a high school teacher was definitely an asset.
Four hours later, we had a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for how much it takes to create these floats. We were even invited to come back and work all night New Year’s Eve (apparently there’s a shortage of volunteers this year due to COVID). While I didn’t jump at the chance to do that, I am definitely going to watch the parade this year with a keener appreciation of how the floats are made. And, if weather and COVID permit, I am definitely considering viewing the floats after the parade.