For some, watching the Rose Parade, hosted by Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses, is a New Year’s Day tradition. Carol Devereux, the president of the Rotary Club of Edmonton South, is one of those people.
“I love that parade,” she says. “I have watched it for years and years. It’s a New Year’s Day thing to do.”
But this year, Carol was unable to watch the parade because she was part of Rotary International’s entry in it.
While for most of us, Tuesday morning, January 1 was an opportunity to sleep in, Carol was meeting other Rotarians at 4:45 a.m., in the parking lot of a Pasadena, Calif., grocery store. From there, they were transported to the staging area for the 130th Rose Parade, which was scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
“We had to get to the staging area before the streets were closed to traffic,” Carol says.
Carol’s journey to Pasadena began at the 2017 Rotary International convention in Atlanta, where she met two Rotarians who were members of the RI float committee.
“I met with one of them again in Toronto (during the 2018 RI convention) and we talked about how I could get involved. I wanted to learn about what happens behind the scenes and get involved in decorating the float,” she says.
Not only was she able to help decorate the float, she was also invited to be an “out walker.” Those are the people who walk beside the float.
“Walking beside the float was so much fun, because people watching the parade were so engaged,” Carol says.
An estimated 750,000 watched the parade as it passed by the bleachers set up along the parade route.
Click here for a short video of the float in the parade.
There has been a RI float in the parade for nearly 40 years.
The float committee begins to prepare for the parade almost as soon as the previous year’s parade ends. Once the parade theme is established, the Rotarians look at how to combine that theme with the RI annual theme.
As Rotary International provides no financial support, the float committee must find donations to cover the cost, which for 2019 was approximately $150,000.
The theme for this year’s float was “Service Rocks.” Its design was based on Crocodile Rocks, a song by Elton John, which was reflected in the float and the costumes worn by the out walkers and people riding on the float.
As had his predecessors in previous years, RI President Barry Rassin (RC of East Nassau, Bahamas) and his wife, Esther, rode on the float.
Others invited to ride on the float included the president of the Rotary Club of Paradise, Calif., who lost both his home and business in the Camp Wildfire, and the Rotarian who owns the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, Calf., which was the scene of a mass shooting in November 2018.
Because they are considered an extension to the float, parade participants were required to be there in costume when the floats were judged on Monday, December 31.
The judging occurred in the large warehouse where several floats were being assembled, a process which began on Boxing Day. Interactors, Rotaractors and Rotarians worked in shifts to complete the float.
Once the judging was complete, a driver and a spotter spent eight hours moving the float to the staging area.
When Carol and other Rotarians arrived at the staging area, the floats were lined up in the order in which they would travel over the five-mile parade route, which took about two hours to complete.
The marching bands and equestrian groups gathered on side streets, prepared to take their place as the floats passed by.
Back in Edmonton a few days later, Carol remained enthused about the experience.
“It was so much fun. It was just amazing to see behind the scenes of the construction of the floats and decorating them,” she says.
“It was great meeting a whole bunch of new people. Whenever you are around a group of Rotarians, there’s sure to be lots of laughter and fun.”