Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Alien Float Wins Big Award

FRI, 1-04-08

PASADENA - Some 100 New Mexicans spent four dreary days in a brown L.A. haze decorating our state's Rose Parade entry in Pasadena, California. But it was well worth the minor inconvenience as their effort was rewarded with recognition for excellence.
The proud history of the Rose Bowl and Parade tells us that it all got started over a hundred years ago by some transplanted Midwesterners, who missed Big Ten football and wanted to show off their great weather. So they invited their old friends out West for a New Year's football game and parade.
Obviously the weather here is a far cry better than in the frozen Midwest right now. But sunny Southern California doesn't compare very well with the crystal clear weather in most of New Mexico. Of course, 100 years ago Los Angeles didn't have the smog it has today, but New Mexicans who remembered the soggy parade experience two years ago still weren't particularly impressed with this year's weather either.
On the day of the parade, however, the skies cleared, the wind held off and the weather cooperated. It didn't hurt that, as the parade was beginning, Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti received word that New Mexico's float won the Grand Marshal's Award for most creative concept and design.
It was further confirmation of the Tourism Department's decision to go with a space theme despite sniping from some communities back home. The split-pea-clad aliens were a hit from the first day media and visitors were allowed into the float-building tent. The float appeared on the evening news every night.
New Mexico's float-decorating volunteers distinguished themselves once again. Some 37 of them paid all their own expenses to spend several days on the job. Most other floats were decorated by youth volunteer groups from the area.
Although tasks were divided into four-hour blocks, New Mexico's volunteers often had their job finished in less than an hour and went looking for other floats to help with. Some floats still weren't finished when it came time to be judged.
Several New Mexico communities pitched in with volunteers and materials. Most notable among them was Roswell, which provided gift bags stuffed with Roswell promotional materials to be handed out to the thousands of visitors who came to view the floats during the decorating process.
Roswell's Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Nawrocki brought workers, as did T or C's tourism director Gina Deeter, Taos' Don Francisco Trujillo and former Santa Fe Mayor Larry Delgado. Ruidoso also had a contingent present. Tourism Commission Chairman Al Lucero came along with commissioner Diedre Lujan from Albuquerque.
New Mexico's volunteer coordinator Betty Watson, of Santa Fe, kept her fast-moving crew working smoothly. While volunteer coordinators for other floats had to crack the whip to keep their charges moving, Watson's main problem was finding enough assignments for her eager workers.
Unfortunately, in this type of operation, improvising or getting ahead is not allowed. Supervisors, working for Fiesta Parade Floats, have manuals of directions timed for each step of the operation. Materials are not available until the manual calls for them. Supervisor Eli Bartholemy, assigned to New Mexico's float, had the enviable problem of keeping worker enthusiasm in check. He did a good job of working with Watson to keep nearly everyone happy.
The genius behind the design and engineering of the nine floats built by Fiesta Parade Floats was owner Raul Rodriguez. Not only is Rodriguez creative, he also is as colorful as they come. He wanders among the floats under his charge with a huge blue macaw on his shoulder, amid a sea of admirers seeking a picture with him.
It was a great experience. New Mexico made many friends. The California tourism market is huge and largely untapped. Viewers who streamed by our float while it was being decorated, frequently made comments indicating their lack of awareness that only one state away, there is something between Arizona and Texas.

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