Without a doubt, said a laughing Peggy O’Leary, there’s one group of volunteers who traditionally are more important than any other in the annual Rose Parade.
Of course, that distinction goes those holding the huge push brooms and giant snow shovels at the ready. That is, those at the ready to go into action as pooper scoopers, picking up what horses leave behind during the two-hour event on New Year’s Day.
O’Leary, a good-natured soul with a bright smile, began volunteering her pooper scooping skills 28 years ago, and was back at it on January 1 for the 129th edition of the floral spectacle down Colorado Boulevard.
“I love everything about a parade, who doesn’t?” said O’Leary, a longtime South Pasadena resident with an infectious personality. “I love the energy, seeing it up close and personal where all the action takes place.”
Admittedly, she plays only a small part in making the parade a memorable experience for those along the parade route and millions more viewing on television around the globe. Yet, the attention that comes with the role leaves lasting memories. “I enjoy greeting and hugging people along the parade route, interacting with those riding on floats, meeting young band members who have traveled from all over the world to march in it, not to mention seeing members of equestrian groups,” she said.
Oh, but the latter means horses, and, well, you know what.
That’s the fun part insists O’Leary, who enjoys the attention of exciting the crowd when called into action to clean up a mess left behind by one of the four-legged animals. “People laugh along with us,” she said. “We take a bow if we have time and wave to the crowd. It’s fun.”
O’Leary found a friend in Laurie Wheeler, president of South Pasadena’s Chamber of Commerce, to join her this year in the art of pooper scooping. “It was exciting to be a part of it,” said Wheeler, who grew up watching the Rose Parade as a child, decorated floats as a teenager and now, as and adult, likes to lend a hand to South Pasadena entries.
When O’Leary approached Wheeler about two months ago with the idea of teaming with her in this year’s parade, Wheeler quickly replied, “heck yes!” She wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I just love the parade,” said Wheeler. “When Peggy mentioned what she did, it sounded like so much fun, and so bizarre, I just had to do this.”