22 Aug 2014
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VIDEO: Rose Parade Float Volunteers Work at a Furious Paste

People from around the world give of their time to get floats ready for the Jan. 1 spectacle. The public will have a chance to see their work beginning Friday. Watch time-lapse video.

Everyone has different reasons for wanting to help decorate a Rose Parade float.

Slackers certainly need not apply. Most of the work is tedious, requiring volunteers to carefully glue lima beans, flower buds and crushed and sifted flower crumbs onto designated areas in a paint-by-numbers sort of way.

You've got to know how to color inside the lines for this kind of work.

The scheduling is air-tight and float foremen—also volunteers—ensure that their crew is hard at work during the two, eight-hour shifts on the weekends leading up to the Rose Parade on Jan. 1.

Starting on Friday, the public can watch the floats being decorated.   

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Phoenix Decorating Company is building almost half of the 42 Rose Parade floats you'll see in the parade. 

One of those floats belongs to Rotary International, which has participated in the parade for 34 years. This year's theme is "Oh the Places You'll Go!" borrowed from children's book author Dr. Seuss.

"So we took that, turned it around and said, All the places we go, because Rotarians travel the world and conduct humanitarian service," said Kate Rosloff, public relations chair for the Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee and a Culver City resident.

The float features a big world globe to symbolize Rotarians' world-travel and turning gears that, like its members, work together to accomplish good, said Rosloff.

The floats can cost $80,000-$120,000 and are typically funded by the Rotary clubs.

Rotary Rose Parade float volunteers come from around the world, some as far away as Japan and Africa. Local volunteers include Libby Huff from Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, Marc Hyatt from Long Beach, Marti Rosenberg of Encinitas, Richard Hill Adam from San Juan Capistrano, Ian Miessen from Redondo Beach, Kmud Flygenring from Northridge and Greg Hargrove of Santa Monica.

This is the first year that Long Beach resident Wendy Jacobs got involved in decorating for the Rose Parade. She volunteered to help decorate for Donate Life, an organ donation organization that's had a float in the Rose Parade for 10 years.  

Jacobs recently discovered that she has kidney disease and heard about Donate Life through the transplant clinic she visited in Loma Linda.

She went online and found out that "Oh, they do the Rose Parade," Jacobs said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do."

"It's part of the process of me going from a lifestyle of travel and work and things like that, which have now pretty much been put on hold," she said.

Mike Thompson has been participating in Rose Parade float decorating for 25 years. He's a retired real estate developer in Newport Beach and loves to work with volunteers. Thompson and his wife are crew chiefs for the Donate Life Float.

"I tell people this is really my Christmas," Thompson said. "The joy I bring to people, and that people get by working on this float, is really wonderful."

Donate Life makes the parade work for them, Thompson said. Many of the floats are being used as advertising.

"Donate Life has found a way to basically make this parade raise up volunteers, raise up donors in order to help people live a lot longer," Thompson said.

Larry Madick remembers a time when there were no corporate sponsors in the Rose Parade. The Culver City resident is president of the Pasadena Rose Float Club Kiwanis and started participating in the Rose Parade in high school some 54 years ago, he said.

"Back in the old days, in the 50's, it was all nothing but city floats and all the cities were doing it," said Madick. "Now it's nothing but corporate sponsors."

Madick wore a green windbreaker covered in Rose Parade pins.

"I've got seven more of these jackets with pins on them at home," he said. "It's about working with the volunteers, seeing the same ones come back year after year doing the decorations. You get hooked."

Kerri Mellor of Redondo Beach, a program manager in the Air Force, decided she'd give decorating a shot. This is her first year and she was assigned to the Trader Joe's float.    

"I just found out that you could volunteer and thought it would always be cool to decorate on a float," she said.

Tom Prober of Altadena, also assigned to the Trader Joe's float, has been decorating floats since he was in high school. Prober is a retired Los Angeles Unified School District teacher.

"I have fun doing it," Prober said. "It's only a couple of weeks and you're a part of something really fun and good."

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