Thursday, December 27, 2012

Decorating Is Sticky Business

Fiesta Parade Floats, Inc, Irwindale, CA

The process begins almost immediately after the previous parade is over. The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade officials announce the theme for the next year and the race is on. Float builders and sponsors negotiate contracts and select designs. The metal structure is built onto a vehicle carriage of some sort. Mechanical and electrical systems are installed and the body of the float is built of plaster and wire and painted. By Christmas Day, the almost completed float is ready for decorators to start. Every square inch of exposed surface must be covered by some form of vegetable matter. That is what happens between the day after Christmas and December 30th. On December 31st, the floats are moved out of the building and to the stadium for judging. So Dec 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 are the decorating days. Those days are 24 hours long. Of course volunteers don't work 24 hours, but you can work as much as you wish.

Fiesta floats begin and end here at the junk yard outside the factory building.

Whether on TV or in real life from the parade grandstand, you don't grasp the size of these floats until you meet them up close and personal on the factory floor surrounded by scaffolding.

Here is a description that a former decorator gave me.
it’s cold and damp work as they keep the flowers moist, especially at night. It’s quite messy and you can plan on throwing out whatever clothes and shoes you wear as they get very sticky/covered with floral glue. It doesn’t wash out no matter what you do. Some have to work on elevated narrow scaffolding, if you’re physically (and mentally) up to it.

There’s also ground level decorating that’s done. The detail work with seeds and petals can be challenging, but it’s also very messy. Some people really enjoy it and have a great time, especially if they are with friends in the group.

If you’re lucky, the float sponsor or club/group may provide some meals for the workers. Otherwise, you’re on your own for meals.

Expect to work 6-8 hr shifts which run 24 hrs/day for about a week before the parade. They usually want you to work for at least 3-4 days minimum. There are numerous locations where the floats are decorated. The final push is the last night, New Years eve, when you work right up until they have to move the floats to the parade starting about 2am (depending upon how far they have to move them.) Occasionally you’ll get to see or meet some VIP who’s getting a tour. TV crews also interview decorators for the news.
Here Josh Elliott from Good Morning America stopped by

During our experience, Fiesta Floats was constructing ten floats–all in the same building. We were assigned to the Dole float. Each decorating crew was led by an experienced project leader who made sure all materials arrived at the right place and time. Decorating was done in an orderly manner, working so that decorators were not falling over each other and from top to bottom so that scaffolding could be disassembled as the process proceeded. We took individual rest and meal breaks as necessary but the decorating continued uninterupted.

Volunteers come from everywhere. Some are locals; both individuals and organizations. Many out–of–towners are checking off an item on their bucket list and stay in local hotels. Some do this as an annual thing, returning year after year to participate with the same organization. My (unsubstantiated) feeling is that very few are RVers.

I'll cover other aspects of this adventure in other posts. I think this is enough for one post.

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