Tuesday, December 28, 2010
When a float supervisor for the 2011 Rose Parade, set for Jan. 1, in Pasadena, asked me if I was interested in volunteering for detail work, little did I know she was about to hand me a tub of uncooked split peas and a bottle of glue.
"This is for the sea turtle," she told me.
This split-pea-enhanced sea turtle was just one element of the elaborate Dole float -- a first for the Hawaii-born fruit company -- which will be heading down Colorado Boulevard on New Year's Day.
A representative from Dole invited me to volunteer and check out the floral goings-on, and despite not being able to bring CC (kids under 12 are not permitted in the Fiesta Parade Floats warehouse), I didn't want to pass up this distinctly Southern California activity.
So I made my way over to Irwindale -- about an hour's drive northeast of L.A. proper -- and found myself face-to-face with enormous and elaborate floats being readied by a large team of staff and volunteers, which also included a bevy of young Girl Scouts.
Created and designed by Raul Rodriguez of float-building company Fiesta Parade Floats (which has, incidentally, built 17 consecutive Sweepstakes Trophy winners in the Rose Parade), Dole's parade entry, "Living Well in Paradise," will sport a replica statue of King Kamehameha, waterfalls, roses, orchids, hydrangeas, fruit and, of course, my sea turtle.
The work itself was very detail-oriented, as the supervisor suggested. People were even coming around to check that spaces between split peas weren't too wide or sloppy. Eek! Lucky for me, my peas were just fine.
While I was worried that boredom or frustration would set in quickly, I was surprised by how zen-like I felt by just arranging peas in their proper places. It was actually pretty relaxing and a task I could do while putting my brain in low-stress mode -- something I don't give myself the chance to do very often. Plus, it was kind of like the game "Tetris," in that I was always trying to find misshapen peas (splittier peas?) to fill oddly shaped spaces.
Anyway, three hours ended up flying by. As for my turtle, I only filled about four patches on his right flipper. Seriously.
That only added to my amazement about how all of the Parade elves get this enormous job done. It also made me better appreciate the finished products, as I saw people walking around cutting straw flowers into fine powder and gluing black beans onto over-sized fish.
Check out the above photo gallery. I was able to spy preparations for other floats, including the ones from Kaiser Permanente, the Ronald Reagan Centennial and the Beverly Hills Tournament of Roses Committee.
For information about kid-friendly float decorating closer to the Rose Parade site in Pasadena, visit www.tournamentofroses.com.