Help Decorate a Float for the Rose Parade

Tournament of Roses volunteers prepping flowers
Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite LA volunteer efforts is decorating the floats for the Rose Parade.  It started back in High School, when we received extra credit for doing so over the school break.  The tradition continued in college as my university enters a float into The Tournament of Roses every year. The experience ended after I met my husband who detests everything about parades due to his growing up in Communist-era Romania.

Still, once my kids get a little older, I plan on taking them to decorate floats.  Everyone loves that feeling of watching a project go from the drawing table to the finished product and float decorating provides that to hundreds of people at once.  Walking into the warehouse to see a bare bones structure, looking at the plans and getting assigned an organic matter is simply thrilling.  Once the seeds and dried flowers and leaves are glued on, then comes the hard part of placing the petals.  That is also when the various groups and random volunteers come in.  While making it a little more difficult (there’s so many people!), it also makes it a little easier, provided everyone works as a team and you don’t get that one lady who yells at everyone for the sake of yelling.

There is something about showing up on the parade route at 3am, to put the finishing touches on a float.  One year, our float was nowhere near done by the time it was slowly towed west on the 210 Freeway, to Orange Grove Ave.  We were still gluing orange petals and poppy seeds on our floats when the judges were a float away.

I highly suggest that everyone have this experience at least once.  Watching the parade later and seeing “your” float go down Colorado Blvd. is such a wonderful emotion.  If you’re interested in spending a few hours in these closing days of 2008 decorating floats, please contact the local float makers for details:

Self-built float organizations:

Float Companies

12 thoughts on “Help Decorate a Float for the Rose Parade”

  1. I’m volunteering for Downey this year. (I’m a lifelong resident.) It’s fun but I have to wonder if it’ll be finished in time.

  2. Thanks, legotech.

    Iomara, have fun. I know how you feel. As I’ve mentioned I’ve had my share of decorating on Orange Grove. One float we were still decorating while it was on the move to make it’s debut on TV. Running alongside, throwing seeds on it. There was a 4 ft. patch on the back of the head that never got finished. We spray painted it to match.

  3. I did this once some 20 years ago for the First Interstate Bank float. It was fun but boy was it a messy endeavor.

    I’m curious about something though. I understand volunteering for “your own float” such as a University or municipal entrant but otherwise how do these float companies, which charge a great deal of money for their design and execution of a float for corporate clients, get to rely on volunteers?

    Boy if I tried to bring “volunteers” into my business for every $100,000 project, I bet the labor board would be all over me.

  4. angelo, it is messy. I have a sweatshirt I used back in ’91 for float decorating, it’s still covered in that glue stuff. As for the volunteers, I asked and wrote an article once on the same thing. It works the same as internships. Because they allow groups/individuals from schools get credit they can do this. Adults not in a school fall under “group leader” which means that they ares supposed to just make sure their group is doing it’s credit-worthy job. As for other groups, my sister’s Girl Scout troop volunteered for Fiesta for several years, it was labeled as “experience”.

  5. I remember doing this in High school as well. IT was hell let me tell you. it was freezing and they treated us like employees making Kathie Lee Gifford clothing. we were there from 6pm to 6am with no way out and no sleep. we took turns sneaking out and jumping the fence to sleep on a bench in a park nearby. on our breaks(that were few and far between) it was freezing and they put out our bum trashcan fires.of course this was twenty some years ago hopefully times have changed. OASIS GLUE IS THE DEVILS MAKING!

  6. ROFL. lezgull, you must have been on the same float I was on my first year. Volunteered for a weekend and the slave-driver was this horrible bitch who thought yelling at a group of 14 year old girls was fun. I got fed up and walked away, telling her, “YOU’RE NOT PAYING US!” which then made the rest of the people get up and walk. The owner of the float company actually came out and talked to us and the lady was sent to another float. IIRC, that was a Fiest float too. She then made this big show of buying her new team hot cocoa. My mother one-upped her by buying pizza AND hot cocoa for everyone working our entire float.

  7. If I ever volunteer to somehow try to get grated parsley to stick to anything every again, I know I have died and gone to hell. But I can always say I DID IT DAMN IT :)

  8. Faboomama, I wish we had started a mutiny! Our stupid unfinished float could have used your Norma Rae skills!

  9. :) I spoke to some old hand volunteer float decorators today, people who have been doing this 15 – 46 years. They all told that story about the screaming lady. Battle scars, we’ve earned them.

  10. like some of you I also helped to decorate a float in high school for the 1992 Parade, but did not have such a negative experience where we were worked to death. The only aspect that was negative was how cold it was in the staging area, seemed like it was almost freezing. I think our group spent about 4 or 5hrs over the course of 1 weekend. It was fun watching the float on TV, and when I finally did attend a Rose Parade I appreciated the floats a lot more knowing the work & effort that goes into decorating them.

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