DOWNEY - By today, the 'building' phase of the Downey float will be over, with all the pounding, all the welding, all the screening of shapes, all the touchups done.Tomorrow, the day after Christmas, the decoration phase - the real fun part - begins. This is when more than 100 volunteers - young and old alike, from Downey and beyond - will participate in breathing life into a goliath's skeletal frame that has lain motionless for months in its Erickson Avenue hangar. They will be gluing on seeds, lentils, ground carrot, orange beans and the like for the first four days before blanketing the float with fresh pink roses and myriad types of orchids in the run-up to the Tournament of Roses Parade New Year's Day. In its final configuration, the Ford 351 Windsor float truck with its brand-new engine, a rebuilt transmission, and its accoutrements will roll down Colorado Boulevard in all its 45-ft. long, 16-ft. width, and 31-ft. tall glory. Downey's maritime-themed entry this year, "Jewels of the Pacific," features all manner of tropical fish swimming about a coral reef. The most prominent are three huge puffer fish, while jellyfish hover and angel fish and clown fish circle close by, while sea snails, sea stars, and a stingray hug the ocean floor. As usual, Miss Downey and her court will round out the float. The depiction of some of the sea's marvels again sprang from the fecund imagination of Jason Redfox. Its wonderful rendering was done by Thom Neighbors. The Downey Rose Float Association's entry last year won the prestigious Founder's Trophy, the ninth time it has won the award since its founding in 1952. Association president this year is Susan Domen. Asked about the float's chances this year, construction crew chief Kelley Roberts, who has worked on the float for 30 years (since he was 10) and has been construction chair for the past 15, said confidently: "In my mind, we've already won." The float represents hours upon countless hours of work done by members and volunteers and the inestimable contributions by donors and other community supporters. Estimated total operating costs this year was $80,000. "The floral items alone cost $26,000. This year has been tough," said Roberts. Nevertheless, the annual tradition of exposing Downey through its self-built float to the world's glare has been a much-honored one. How do they plan to win another trophy? "By a combination of craftsmanship, detailed work, and out-of-the-box thinking," Roberts said. "You aim for a blending of the flowers, just so. You want to make them look better than life!"
********** Published: December 25, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 35