Local

Decorators, volunteers prepare for Rose Parade

Hundreds of people volunteered this week to put in the finishing touches on floats for the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade to take place on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 in Pasadena, Calif.
Hundreds of people volunteered this week to put in the finishing touches on floats for the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade to take place on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 in Pasadena, Calif.
Brian Watt/KPCC

Thousands of people from all over the country have converged on the Southland to help decorate floats for Saturday’s Tournament of Roses Parade. Floatbuilders are working on their final touches, and making sure their crafts can stand up to stormy weather.

Laura Cross of Huron, South Dakota is living a lifelong dream. She says she’s just following the flowers.

"I own a flower shop and we’ve been in business about 10 years," Cross says. "I’ve just always watched the Rose Bowl Parade on TV since a child and...so it all came true this year. We got to come to Los Angeles and work on a float. Our local wholesaler who we buy flowers from can run out of flowers, and sometimes they sell out of red carnations, and then we turn on the TV and there goes our red carnations down Colorado Boulevard."

The Thursday before the parade, Cross' job at the Rose Palace in Pasadena was to cut strawflowers for use on the base of the “Underwater Fantasy” float sponsored by the Oddfellows and Rebekahs.

Meanwhile, other floatbuilders are just hoping that forecasts for a windy weekend don't mean that their fantasy floats will end up under water. Chris Lofthouse, the president of the Phoenix Decorating Company, says his crews have to take the elements into account, and make sure the floats can handle whatever blows their way.

"If we get really windy conditions, I'm going to start worrying about some of the tall stuff that I do," Lofthouse says. He has engineers run reports to test how the floats will hold up to everything from gusts of wind to tilting on the road.

"I know how hard the wind can blow on some of our taller floats before I have a problem with it," he says. "Rain is just tough on equipment, and personnel."

Lofthouse says there's more to float construction than most parade viewers realize.

"We've got our numbers, we do our homework on that," he says. "People look at these things as beautiful floats coming down the street. From a floatbuilder's point of view, I've got a 50,000-60,000 pound vehicle with two blind people on board, and we're trying to keep it out of the crowd."