Among those pulling for South Pasadena’s entry to finish Tuesday’s 130th Rose Parade was a woman wearing white overalls and holding a giant snow shovel ready for action as one of the newest members of the Tournament of Roses’ Pooper Scooper patrol in the annual New Year’s Day extravaganza.
Local City Councilperson Diana Mahmud, joined by fellow South Pasadenans in the behind-the-scenes effort, including Peggy O’Leary, Laurie Wheeler and April Wood Bond, was stationed for duty at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards, only steps away from where the city’s float was stopped in its tracks behind the disabled Chinese American Heritage Foundation’s “Harmony Through Union” entry during this year’s parade.
About 15 minutes before television broadcasts were set to go off the air, the Fiesta Float’s designed train, which heralded the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, May 10, 1869, constructed in two segments, started smoking after a fire ignited on board just as it was ready to go down the parade route.
Behind it, the Lincoln-Way Marching Band from New Lenox, Illinois, and the horse-drawn Gold Rush Fire Brigade, were directed by Tournament officials to go around the broken down float near the 10 a.m. scheduled finish of the broadcast.
With time running out, TOR officials quickly showcased the final musical performance of the day, singer Anne Marie, ahead of the last two floats in the parade – South Pasadena and DigAlert – and the Royal Swedish Cadet Band.
The final three entries failed to make it on camera.
Taking it all in was Mahmud, keeping her fingers crossed the City of South Pasadena’s float would receive the spotlight and appreciation it deserved after a year’s worth of work. “I hope it is able to complete the parade,” she said, as the Chinese American Heritage Foundation’s float was slowly being pulled by a tow truck. It didn’t get very far before a tow bar broke, resulting in second tow truck coming on the scene and a further delay ensued as entries behind it, including South Pasadena’s, sat idle at the start for about 40 minutes.
While the city float didn’t appear on camera, it did eventually manage to go down the 5 ½-mile mile route along with the DigAlert “Whistle While You Work” entry, its identity described in the parade’s program, describing the entry as a service that helps protect those working on underground projects.
By then, however, many believing the parade had ended, already dispersed as a result of the long delay.
“It would be a shame [if South Pasadena’s float] doesn’t go down the parade route,” said Mahmud, watching the confusion in front of her from her pooper scooper view. “It’s truly a spectacular float. There were a lot of spectacular floats, but I’m partial to South Pasadena.”
A statement released by the Tournament of Roses Association following the situation read in part: “The temporary delay of the 2019 Rose Parade was promptly addressed by our operations and public safety partners. Thank you for your patience as we gather more information.”
Similar words came from South Pasadena float officials, who hope to hear more about the situation soon. “We will be meeting with Tournament officials in a few days to go over the parade,” explained SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap, trying to forget the finish to the event and remember celebrating the city float’s major accomplishment of winning the parade’s Mayor Award. “Three Little Birds,” four entries from the end, full of roses, orchids, gladiolas, and eucalyptus bark, was honored as the most outstanding float from a participating city and featured Bob Marley’s hit song in the 70s of the same name.
Joss Rogers, riding in the underbelly of the city’s float working the animation from start to finish, said the song’s lyrics could not have been more fitting, knowing in the end, with an award-winning banner guiding the entry to the finish, Marley belted out: “Don’t worry about a thing…Every little thing is gonna be alright.”
And, indeed it will. South Pasadena will soon be working on its next one for 2020.
Meanwhile, Mahmud won’t soon forget cleaning up as equestrian units went by, occasionally leaving a mess behind for her and other pooper scooper members to clear away.
She joined volunteers at what’s known as TV corner, clearing any horse debris before the floats made their way onto Colorado Boulevard.
“It was incredibly fun,” she said. “You get a different perspective because you’re right up close next to the float and marching bands.”
And, of course, the horses, too, which kept her plenty busy. “You get a complete different feeling being here on the ground level, looking at everything going by” the councilwoman added. “It was very enjoyable.”
Mahmud stood alongside Wheeler, the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce president, who took on the pooper-scooper assignment for the second straight year.
“It’s so much fun to be a part of this,” said the chamber exec. “I’ve been watching the parade since I was a kid, decorated floats in high school and now to see it from this end of it kind of completes the circle for me.”
Full of confidence, Wheeler had a lot of practice coming into this year’s floral spectacle, feeling like a pro this time around. “I’ve had dogs all my life, so my husband says that’s good practice,” she said laughing.
Bond, fulfilling something on her bucket list, liked the idea that pooper scoopers get the crowd “roared up,” she said, as she and the others raced onto the roadway, brooms and shovels in hand, spurred on by cheers coming from the stands. “It’s so cool,” she said of the experience, noting that her husband, Dwight, made buttons reading: “I support the Rose Parade Pooper Scoopers.”
The veteran in the group was the good-natured O’Leary, who has been perfecting the role for 29 years. “I prefer to call myself ‘The Queen of Pooper Scoopers,’” she joked. “I just love the energy of meeting and greeting everybody. Once the parade begins, no one sees it up-close-and-personal like we do.”
To do the job well, said the bemused O’Leary, takes “a sense of fun and whimsy.”
It’s also important to be fast on your feet. “The objective is to get out there, do your thing, then get back on the sideline before the rest of the parade comes along,” she explained, showing a friendly smile. “You’ve got to be quick, doing it in a hurry.”
And when the mission is accomplished, pooper scoopers can anticipate a huge applause.
“People laugh along with us,” said O’Leary, the parade’s longest-tenured pooper scooper.
“We take a bow if we have time and wave to the crowd. It’s fun!”