DOWNEY - On Tuesday, Downey Rose Float Association president and construction chairman Kelley Roberts pronounced its entry in the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade scheduled on Jan. 2 as "98 percent complete."When completed ("And it will be completed on schedule!" declared Roberts emphatically), the float will stand 28 feet tall, 18 feet wide, and 52 feet long. Titled "Enchanted Paradise," it depicts a magical tropical setting complete with an animated belching volcano with water cascading down its slopes (and thus turning into a veritable water slide) and waterfalls framing it, a giant tiki beating a drum that causes a couple of other smaller tikis to beat their tiny drums and dance, and sparking the swaying of palm trees and wahines. Miss Downey and her court will be riders on the roughly 6-mile parade route, as well as Roberts and Andrew Mularkey who will alternately slide down the mountain side. Roberts has been involved with the float since he was 10 years old and works as ride maintenance supervisor at Knott's Berry Farm. Mularkey also works at Knott's as a maintenance technician and is the float's assistant chairman. A product of the combined imaginations of Roberts, Jeff Shadic (manager of park décor also at Knott's and float floral chairman), and Jason Redfox (architecture teacher at Downey High School), the float will rumble down Colorado Boulevard next Monday, occupying the 50th parade position, among the other floats that were similarly designed to adhere to the year's overall tournament theme, "Just Imagine." The rendering was done by Thom Neighbors of Bravo Productions. On this late afternoon, 80 volunteers were busy working on the already foam-covered float, some - mostly high school kids on their Christmas break - perched atop the float on different levels applying sticky glue onto the painted convoluted surface with their brushes, preparatory to embedding the thousands of seeds and other dry natural materials that will eventually engulf the whole float, while others worked in the decoration building nearby preparing the flowers. "Here, we are in the dry seeds stage," said Roberts. "We'll be installing all the dry materials for the next two or three days." As other volunteers were scurrying about preoccupied with performing one thing or another, one or two elderly volunteers (members of service organizations) were poring over diagrams laid out on small utility tables on one side probably figuring out how to arrange the seeds in an array that would produce the proper shading in selected areas. At any rate, the float site at Erickson Street on the south side of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center was a beehive of activity, the pace of activity rising to a crescendo on Dec. 31. In charge of the floral work is Shadic, who Roberts said concurrently assumed the duties of floral chairman four years ago. The object of all the activity was of course the readying of the association's entry in the Rose Parade which was just a few days away. Nevertheless, since Downey's float entries have won prestigious awards the past three years (the latest to win was last year's entry, "A Stroll Down Memory Lane," which won the Lathrop K. Leishman trophy, given to the "most beautiful entry by a non-commercial sponsor"), a sense of calm confidence pervaded the place. Roberts said 6,000 roses (flown in from Ecuador), some 4,000 orchids, several hundred torch ginger (tropical flowers), and assorted ferns and mosses are being used on the float this year. All of these materials must be in place by 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, when final judging takes place. Actual construction costs of the float, he said, have been budgeted at $25,000-$30,000, while $21,000-$22,000 has been set aside for its decorations. It is noteworthy that while a few cities have opted to drop their Rose Float participation due to economic conditions, all six cities/entities that self-build their floats are fielding entries this year - Downey, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Burbank, La Canada, and Cal Poly Universities. It's also a matter of record that the success of the Downey Rose Float Association over the 50 years of its existence has always depended on the efforts and contributions of volunteers and sponsors. Anticipating a big, final push this weekend, Roberts said: "Donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated. And we can use all the help we can get."
********** Published: December 29, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 37