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“5 Questions” is an occasional feature in which we ask five questions of Downey business and community leaders. This week’s participant is Kelley Roberts, construction chairman for the Downey Rose Float Association.
1.) This is your 35th year as a volunteer with Downey Rose Float. How did you get started?
When I was 10 years old my neighbor and his sister were going down to decorate this thing called a parade float, it sounded like fun. I asked my parents if I could go, they said no, because I was on restriction, so I stormed off to my room and shut my door. Then I proceeded to sneak out the window, jump over the neighbors fence onto the next block, where my neighbor and his sister met me, and I went to check this thing out.
I ended up staying down there for six hours, not realizing that within 10 minutes of me leaving, my parents were aware of where I was at. So when I snuck back into the room, they were happily waiting for me. And after a little discussion, they said that I could have been doing something worse with my time, and let me go back the next day. This time I used the front door.
And 35 years later, I’m still here…where I have been in charge of and personally helped build more than 20 floats and counting as construction chairman.
2.) Have the floats changed much since you first started volunteering?
They have gotten much better in all aspects. The overall look and feel has evolved from when I started – from the architectural aspects, fine detail of construction, newer materials that will provide a fine line allowing for more intricate decoration.
In addition to the construction, the animation has become more elaborate over the years. Also, the artistic shaping of metal allows for a cleaner look, and the elaborate floral arrangements definitely make more of a statement.
With the Downey Rose Float Association, we were the transforming float (which transforms from a 1800’s carriage to an entire Mardi Gras scene). As Construction Chairman, we were the first self-built to design, construct and ride a working roller coaster and we were the first self-built to have a stunt show on a float. We were also the first self-built to design, build and ride a working water slide on a float.
We can keep up with the commercial float companies, provided we had the same funds available.
3.) Can you tell us a little bit about the 2014 float?
The theme of the parade is “Dreams Come True”. The dream that many people can relate to is finding their perfect fit. Appropriately themed “The Glass Slipper” designed by Jason Redfox, Jeff Shadic, Thom Neighbors and myself will be the 62nd consecutive entry by the DRFA.
The float will be 28 feet high, 18 feet wide and 50 feet long, decorated with flowers that will come from all over the world. An estimated 10,000 roses in an array of colors will surround the staircase and columns. There is a fountain located in the center of the float that will have orchids appearing as water, and hydrangeas will compliment the piece. In addition to the floral, sweet rice, jasmine rice, barley, orange lentil, green peas, onion seed and several types of moss – sheet moss, mood moss and ming moss will be used on this years’ float.
4.) How can residents get involved?
There are so many ways to get involved in the Association. The best way this time of year is to come down to the float site during decoration week. The float site is located at 13030 Erickson in Downey. Decoration week starts December 26 to December 31 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
5.) January 2 must be a giant relief for you. How do you celebrate?
January 2 isn’t a relief. January 2 I bring the float back from Victory Park to Embassy Suites, where I stay the next few days, while the float is on display.
Usually January 6 is my official day to celebrate by sleeping and watching way too much TV. Last year I “celebrated” by overseeing rehabilitation of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Timber Mountain Log Ride, which re-opened in May. January 6, 2014 I will celebrate by being one of the project managers of the major rehabilitation of the Calico Mine Ride.
Interview by Eric Pierce
Published: Dec. 12, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 35