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Arts and Entertainment

Short On Volunteers But Not On Enthusiasm, Rose Parade Decorators Race To Finish Floats

A float decorator stands in the middle of a towering parade float covered with yellow, orange and red flowers in a Pasadena warehouse.
Artistic Entertainment Services staff member Martha Palomino is framed by the flowery flames spouting from a girl's jetpack on the Honda float.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )
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Roses are delicate, but the final steps of decorating a parade float with them are not.

A Pasadena warehouse on Friday morning echoed with the squeaks of staff and volunteers jabbing the plastic vials holding each flower into the foam-covered surface of 13 floats just hours before the 2:30 p.m. judging deadline for the 2022 Rose Parade.

“Little elves don’t put this together in one day,” said Artistic Entertainment Services Decoration Manager Leslie Foxvog. “It takes a team. It takes a family.”

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The Echeagarray family— Mom, Adela and sons Miguel and Jafet— prep flowers for placement on one of Artistic Entertainment Service's 13 Rose Parade floats.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )
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Foxvog said there’d normally be around 75 volunteers to supplement the company’s staff, but at 8 a.m. there were only about 20.

Foxvog’s task is moving people — making sure everyone’s hands are busy securing orange Kumquat halves, gluing orchids to waving branches and, yes, affixing roughly 12,000-to-20,000 roses to each float.

The mood is jubilant, but also a little anxious with people buzzing around the warehouse like the bees perched on one of the towering floats.

“You don't know that you have that skill until you're put to the task and they give you a few directions and turn you loose, which is pretty amazing,” said volunteer Joanne Scudder as she brushed excess shreds of blue status flower from a larger-than-life sized jug of almond milk.

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Volunteer Joanne Scudder.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )

The florist flew in from Ohio with a friend to help decorate the floats. Among her tasks were covering bee bodies in yellow straw flowers and lining their wings with pumpkin seeds.

“I'm going to go home and look at my spice cabinet and have a whole different outlook on life, let me tell you,” Scudder said.

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Lyn Cisneros and Ana Guajardo poke vials of roses into the Wetzel’s Pretzels float celebrating California car culture. Both are first-time volunteers who've watched the parade for years.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )
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The snout of the pup leading China Airlines' float is covered with fluffy, thistle-like cardoon.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )
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Volunteer Kimberly Strauss glues white orchids to the waving branches on the the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation's band directors float.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )
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A bee perched on the Blue Diamond Growers float. Onion seeds cover the insect's head and striped body.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )

It’s a 180-degree difference from where I met Foxvog by chance along Orange Grove Avenue on New Year’s Day 2021. Though the parade was canceled — for only the fourth time since 1891 — she and a few other decorators filled red wagons with flowers and trundled down the sidewalk in a little procession of their own.

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A small flotilla of red wagon floats made their way down Orange Grove Boulevard on New Year's Day 2021.
(Mariana Dale/LAist)

“I could not imagine not being here, and being able to provide some part of the celebration,” Foxvog said back then. “I really missed it.”.

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Now the celebration is back on a grander scale, but the message and the hope for a brighter future remains the same.

“We’re kicking off 2022 with a bang,” Foxvog said. “Happy New Year!”

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Decorator Andrea Zepeda and Leslie Foxvog momentarily pull down their masks for a photo on New Year's Eve Day 2021.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist )