For as long as I could remember, it was a New Year's Day tradition to watch the Rose Parade on TV. My mother says that we got a color TV specifically for this purpose.
When I moved out to LA for work, I got it in my head that I wanted to try volunteering to work on the floats once I started learning more about it. I found out there was a City of St. Louis float done by Phoenix Decorating Company. I showed up at the gate, flashed my driver's license and asked to work on that float. Thus started not only a 'tradition' (that only lasted two years so far) but a friendship as well. There was another gal, who was very similar to me: we both were Asian, we both wore glasses, we were both short and easily mistaken for being far younger than we actually were. As it turns out, we actually lived a few blocks away from each other. We hit it off very well, and we worked quite well together. Our crew chief was impressed with our work and set us on the more detailed work, and often, up on scaffolding. Quite often we found ourselves atop the float because of the combination of our size, weights and abilities.
The rules are that every part of the float must be covered in organic material: seeds, flowers, beans, etc. You'd be surprised at what is used. It's a lot of work, often with adhesives that don't like to be washed off easily. Patience, flexibility and eagle-eyes are important. I was lucky enough to make an impression enough to be asked back for the final days where we get to place the flowers. I can't tell you the kind of pretzel positions I put myself in to get flowers everywhere they needed to be. The two years that I lived in Pasadena, I never did make it to see the parade live. Every year, I was barely able to move from bed to couch, every muscle screaming in protest. But I can't begin to tell you what it was like to see my handiwork on national TV. Especially since the first year, my float won a trophy. My contribution was small, but my pride for the float was big.
These are a few pictures from both years that I worked on the floats. The first year, was for the 2005 Rose Parade where I worked on the City of St. Louis float. More can be found here.
Not everything on the float was flowers:
The corn kernels were made of lemons - yum!
The apples were covered in individual carnation petals, painstakingly glued on, one-by-one.
See what I mean? Every corner. Ouch!
Made from seaweed paper (black), coconut (white), statice (yellow), lentil (orange), coffee (brown).
The second year, I followed our Crew Chief to the Ronald McDonald house and worked on that one instead of the St. Louis one. More here
The bear that I worked with, up close and personal:
Raggedy Anne before her saffron-coated hair started bleeding onto her white dress because of rain during judging.
Some of my close-up handiwork:
It's really hard to keep the colors seperated when you're working with things like statice petals and coconut. Lots of attention to detail.
I intend to go back and work there again, and my float friend has offered to host me. I forgot to take her up on the offer this year - the first time I haven't had work in late December since I left LA.
Hope you enjoyed this up close look at Rose Parade floats, happy new year! I've got two more posts ready to go, so stay tuned!