Float ready for its flowers

DOWNEY - This weekend, when many of us are still sprawled on the couch recovering from our Christmas feasts, a fleet of volunteers will be hard at work to maintain a Downey tradition that goes back 100 years. It's crunch time for the Downey Rose Float Association, which is scurrying to complete its entry in the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade, taking place Tuesday in Pasadena. This year's theme is "Oh, the Places You'll Go."

Downey's entry is titled "Dew Drop By" and depicts a fairytale village complete with an English garden, hobbit-style homes and a cottage built into a mountainside. Designed by Thom Neighbors, the elaborate float also features three waterfalls that cascade off leaves and into a pond, which drains into a river.

Miss Downey and her court will serve as fairies, elevated 2-4 feet above lily pads.

According to Kelley Roberts, president of the DRFA, the actual building of the float is "95 percent done," but there is still the task of decorating. The float will be adorned with 12,000 various color roses shipped directly from Ecuador. There will also be 5-6 different types of orchids, along with tulips and other types of flowers and plant life.

A decoration committee made up of Roberts, Jeff Shadic and Jason Redfox oversees the float's decoration and use of flowers.

Roberts and a team of volunteers kicked off "decoration week" Wednesday, decorating tree bark and roots, cutting straw and starting early work on the butterfly wings. The float is housed and decorated at 13030 Erickson Avenue, located on the south campus of Rancho Los Amigos off Gardendale Street.

A Tournament of Roses official will visit the Downey float site Sunday at 9 a.m. for the first round of judging, with final judging taking place on the morning of the parade. Downey's floats have earned awards four years straight; a fifth consecutive trophy would be unheard of, especially for a privately-funded, self-built float like Downey's.

"Just getting the float built and seeing it go down Colorado Boulevard is an award in itself," Roberts said. "But a fifth consecutive trophy would be phenomenal."

The float will be towed to the parade route early Jan. 1 with an escort from the Downey Police Department. The DRFA is paying for the escort to Pasadena but police officers are donating their time to help return the float to Downey and its usual spot in front of the Embassy Suites, where residents can see the float up close and purchase flowers.

According to Roberts, participation in the Rose Parade can be a huge marketing tool for participating cities and organizations. In fact, a study by the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce valued the exposure at $6.5 million.

The Rose Parade is watched by millions of people annually in 220 countries, in addition to 800,000 live spectators.

Residents are invited to help decorate the float this weekend. No reservations are necessary. For details, go to downeyrose.org.

********** Published: December 27, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 37