by Laura Berthold Monteros
Building a Rose Parade float is an expensive process for sponsors, and would not be affordable without volunteers who dedicate from a few to scores of hours working on them—volunteers who do not mind getting glue in their hair, cramped fingers from snipping strawflowers, or ruining an old pair of jeans. Some volunteers even give up holiday shopping on weekends in December to prepare and glue dry materials.
Every inch of the float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds, grass, bark, sod, or even fruits and vegetables for it to be eligible for a trophy. Volunteers take a great deal of pride in their work and thrill at seeing the float they pasted mums and gerbera on go down the parade route. Generally, dry decoration takes place on Saturdays in December and fresh materials go on during Deco Week between Christmas and Dec. 31, when the floats are judged.
Readers who are interested in volunteering should check on the websites of the float builders to see if there are still open slots. Many are already booked up, but sometimes they need extra help for the big push. Prospective volunteers can also show up at the decorating site and ask; however, there is no guarantee that a builder will take drop-ins and keep in mind they are very busy during Deco Week.
Guidelines for would-be decorators
These tips apply to most float builders, but each one has its own set of rules, so make sure to check their websites or hotlines.
What to wear: Old clothes. Period. Do not wear anything that you don’t mind throwing out, including shoes. Also be aware that the float barns can get quite cold, so be sure to dress warmly or in layers.
Food: Volunteers can bring their own food or purchase food at the trucks that are usually onsite. Don’t bring anything that needs refrigeration.
What to bring: Scissors are good, spring-loaded scissors are better, but check with the float builder. Do not bring anything valuable or that requires storage, as there is not space.
Generally, volunteers must be 13 or older, though some builders allow younger children to work at floor level.
No smoking in the float buildings.
Use of electronics, including cell phones, is not permitted inside the float barn.
Float barns are construction sites, so people with physical limitations should ask about accessibility before volunteering.
Most builders require a minimum four-hour commitment from each volunteer.
How to sign up for a spot in the barn
There are four commercial builders who design floats for the Rose Parade. Here is the info on each:
Artistic Entertainment Services (AES) in Azusa has an online registration form with dates and a hotline for volunteers, (626) 388-1839. Volunteers can do dry decoration or the final fresh materials. AES was previously known as Festival Artists
Phoenix Decorating Co. has two decorating locations. Kiwanis International handles volunteers for Rosemont Pavilion (located in the Rose Bowl area), and Lutheran Petal Pushers organizes workers for Rose Palace on South Raymond in Pasadena. Shift hours are listed on the website.
Fiesta Parade Floats fills all its slots by early June, but for volunteers who like to plan ahead, email Beverly (firstname.lastname@example.org) before June 1 of next year. Fiesta also uses Girl Scout volunteers; a link to sign up is on the volunteer page of the website.
Paradiso Parade Floats starts its dry decoration on Sundays at its Irwindale location and finishes up at Brookside Pavilion in the Rose Bowl area during Deco Week. Instructions, Time slots and the number of volunteers needed for each are on the website, along with a waiver.
There may also be opportunities to decorate self-built floats. These floats are designed and built by the city or organization that sponsors them. Contact information is on their websites.