1-06 Rain Didn't Dampen Spirits
By JAY MILLER
PASADENA -- It rained on New Mexico's Rose Parade float but it didn't dampen the spirits of the New Mexicans who traveled to California to decorate it. Despite the distance from our hotels to the parade route, most hardy souls made it to the bleachers reserved for us on a very soggy morning.
We had put in dozens of hours apiece on our entry, many working day and night during the week leading up to the parade. Despite the fact that we were working for full-time professionals, several in our group had greater skills and better tools.
When we arrived, early the week of the parade, the float had been constructed -- mainly of steel rods and chicken wire. It had been covered with a foam rubber material strong enough to walk on, but porous enough to ram a flower through. The roses were in plastic vials, filled with a combination of water and 7-Up. The bottoms of the vials were shaped like spears and did their job well.
The three-story Spanish mission, which comprised much of the float, was covered with oatmeal. Cinnamon had been rubbed on in places to soften the appearance.
The joke immediately became that if it rained on parade day, we'd take spoons and bowls to the parade and have breakfast afterward. But even after its thorough soaking at the parade, the oatmeal adhered. That must have been good paste. We hadn't been worried about eating the paste, because everything had to be organic.
The Rose Parade rules went overboard on the organic thing. Wood could not be left bare unless it was covered with flowers -- or other wood. We put redwood strips on top of pine. Painting it a redwood color was forbidden, because paint was not allowed.
Much of the float's surface was covered by finely chopped flowers. Food processors were not allowed and neither were blow guns. So flowers were cut with scissors until they were a fine meal and then applied to a glued surface by hand.
Obviously this required dozens of volunteers to be working at all times because there were thousands of flowers to cut and paste. The New Mexico volunteers, many of whom had lengthy experience building floats for Santa Fe Fiesta parades, seemed to work harder and faster than the local volunteers, so the supervisors often found themselves with no jobs to give out until they were allowed to turn the page in their instruction manual.
Most our volunteers were senior citizens. Who else would have the time and patience? But we didn't stick to the ground floor jobs. When I arrived, I looked up to see Curt Beevers chiseling oatmeal off the cross atop the three-story mission.
The designer had decided it didn't stand out enough. And since he wasn't allowed to paint it a different color, the oatmeal was stripped off and the cross was covered with red woods strips. The job took most of the day.
Beevers, an iron worker many years ago, celebrated his 76th birthday on the way to Pasadena.
The rain was a bummer. It was the first time in 51 years. The day before was much better. The day after was cloudless. The floats with no people fared better. Our New Mexicans, not accustomed to rain, looked pretty miserable, except for Gov. Richardson, of course.
Not winning a prize also was disappointing. Our float was one of the smaller ones in the parade. Because it had nine people, representing New Mexico's various cultures, it had less animation. The judges seemed to like animation.
And even though the Land of Enchantment is magical to us, maybe it didn't fit the parade's "magical" theme well enough for the judges. Maybe we should have had UFO's crashing at Roswell and Virgin Galactic buzzing Las Cruces.
But, all in all, we got in our licks with the media and tourism writers who stopped by the float decorating tent. We, and the governor, were on lots of local television, promoting our state, so we felt as though we accomplished our goal.