Rose Parade: Passport to Creativity  
By Dian Thomas

This year I took a wonderful group of 32 individuals to Southern California for an adventure-packed week. For one week we bathed in creativity, statesmanship, and ingenuity. The first stop on our trip was to the Pacific Aquarium where I saw jellyfish that were so beautiful and graceful. Our next stop was to the see the glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral. Talk about animals in the manger. Three big camels went right by me as they transported the three Kings to see the baby Jesus. Seven angels also flew overhead as they all bless the birth of the baby Jesus.

A visit to the Reagan Library on top of a beautiful hill in Simi Valley brought back many memories of my favorite President. The highlight was a visit to the Oval Office in Air Force One.

The crown jewel of the trip was Thursday, January 1, 2009 when we went to the Tournament of Roses Parade. All the basic ingredients for a perfect parade were present in abundance. Beautiful floats, marching bands, strutting horses, and crowds to enjoy all the millions of hours it takes to put on an event of this magnitude.

The real look into what it takes to make such an incredible experience came Friday when we visited the huge lot full of all the beautiful floats.

All of the floats are decorated between Christmas and New Years with thousand of volunteers to do the work. People from age 12 on up are invited to volunteer to decorate the floats. One woman that I talked to said that the floats would not have been done without the help of all the young people. They are the ones that do all the work high up on the floats and without them it would be difficult for the older people to accomplish the same tasks.

As I walked though the lot I was amazed by all the creativity and work that went in to making such works of art. I was in awe by all the detail. I talked with many of the volunteers that were there to help us understand the process. This is what they shared.

1. Floats are first designed and then constructed. The designing starts the day after the previous parade and goes on all year.

2. Motors, mechanisms, and special effects are carefully prepared and checked to make sure the floats will make it to the end of the parade. One of the volunteers said that each float had to drive the parade route twice before they are allowed into the event.

3. December 26 the decorating begins. Seeds and bark go on first. Some of the more prominent seeds are black which come from celery. There are seeds and beans of all kinds and colors including split peas.

4. Bark and any dried plants go on next.

5. Next comes fruit and vegetables both dried and fresh. I love the cranberry sleeve on the dress, and the dried orange for a mushroom in the woods.

6. The stars of the show go on last. All the flowers come from all over the world. Orchids, roses, and lilies are just a few. The key to keeping the flowers fresh are the small vials that have water and flower preservatives in them that keep them fresh as long as possible. Thousands of these vials are reused every year.

With this perfect mix of ingredients, millions show up both on the parade route and on TV to view this once-in-a- lifetime experience. It is my hope for those of you who love the parade and have not been able to go, that I have helped you to see and understand the detail and the creativity that goes into this spectacular event.

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