Downey Rose Float

Most everyone saw the Tournament of Roses Parade yesterday, but what it takes to build the amazing floats remains shrouded in mystery to most. Downey has had a float in the parade since 1952. This year it took hundreds of volunteers, over 50 types of flowers with over 50,000 roses alone and countless hours of work to bring the Downey float, themed Broadway's Golden Age, to life.Mayor Mario Guerra was the first mayor to ever ride on Downey's float. He sat at the piano, being the only float-rider not standing. "I'm really excited and thrilled," said Guerra days before the parade. "I'm like a little kid. I take my responsibility very seriously, but you can still have fun on the way." Nine people rode on the float, including Guerra, the Miss Downey Court and some of the people who constructed the float. Miss Downey Sarah Lopez rode atop the highest part of the float which is three stories high. Those riding on the float had to arrive at the city hall by 4 a.m. in order to be on the float and in the parade at 7 a.m. Guerra said that he had to cancel his New Year's Eve party in order to be up and ready for the parade. Building the float is a year-long project, beginning with Tom Neighbors and Decoration Chairman Jason Redfox, who came up with the theme. Redfox said that they have wanted to do a design like this for a long time but it has not worked into the theme until this year. "A float is not just a pretty design," Redfox said. And it isn't. It takes five people working on the float all year to build it. Construction Chairman Kelley Roberts is one of them. "The challenge to take a picture and bring it to reality," is one of the most challenging things according to Roberts. Next came the decoration stage, which occurred Dec. 26 through Dec. 30 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., where hundreds of volunteers helped put the finishing touches on the float. Miss Downey Princess Justine Akil worked 11 hour shifts during this time to help complete the float. She also rode on the 2005 float as a Miss Downey Princess. "[Riding the float is] amazing. All your hard work all year long is paid off for," she said. Flower Coordinator Bill Porter is in charge of making sure that the 50 varieties of flowers are arranged in just the right way. The base of the float alone had over 14,000 pink, purple and white roses. Still, not only flowers are seen on the float. There is also a wide variety of seeds, as well as ground strawflower, red bell pepper and sweet onion. Porter has also driven the float in the past. Since the driver of the float cannot see anything outside the float, they must drive along a painted line on the center of the street, which is usually orange or pink. There is also a spotter standing on the outside of the float to alert the driver if anyone runs in front of the float. The cost of flowers alone is approximately $40,000. Downey's float is one in five which are self-built and non-sponsored. In order to raise this money, the Rose Float Association is present at many of Downey's community activities including the Miss Downey Pageant, Street Faire, Kid's Day, Concerts in the Park, Mr. Downey Competition, and the Holiday Lane Parade. The float will be on display in front of Embassy Suites on Firestone starting this weekend. The flowers will be sold, kicking off the fundraising for next year's float. Roberts and Redfox have worked on Downey floats for the past 29 years, and Porter has been working for 30. All three of them said that they volunteered to decorate as kids and kept coming back. Warren senior Kevin Garcia helped decorate the float this year, as he has for the past few years. "It's really fun [to participate in] and is a good way to meet up with people you haven't seen in a long time," he said. ********** Published: January 2, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 37