Jen Meyers, who received a special 70th birthday present, can check one more item off her bucket list.
Seeing the Rose Parade was something she always wanted to do, so Meyers and her husband, Arnold Jacobson, flew in from Hawaii to take in America’s New Year Celebration on Tuesday.
The trip included a stop at South Pasadena’s Rose Parade float site on Thursday behind the War Memorial Building where they were lending a hand decorating the city’s entry in the floral spectacle down Colorado Boulevard.
“We do a lot of volunteering on Maui so we figured out how we could volunteer for the parade as well,” explained Meyers, noting that they settled on working on South Pasadena’s entry in the 130th Rose Parade because it’s a nonprofit or self-built, constructed entirely by volunteers. “There are so few nonprofits and all the commercially built floats have tons of people helping them. We figured the nonprofit float needed as many volunteers as it could get.”
Meyers and Jacobson have watched the Rose Parade seemingly forever on television, and look forward to viewing it live for the first time.
What a gift to mark her 70th birthday – a chance to see the lavish floats, lively marching bands and waving equestrian units up-close-and-personal during the parade given the theme: “The Melody of Life.”
“It’s a nice experience, something different,” said Jacobson, working with others decorating South Pasadena’s entry, which will roll down the 5 ½-mile parade route in the 85th position, near the end of Tuesday’s parade.
The city’s float was inspired by Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds, serving as a reminder to be thankful for what you have, and for those around you. A drum, tambourine, and trumpet accompany the three birds singing Marley’s ’70 hit on a neck of a guitar.
Hundreds of volunteers are contributing their time in the final hours leading up to the parade, applying thousands of roses, orchids and gladiolas and eucalyptus bark to the base of the float.
Nancy Andrews, also known as “Float Mom,” is another longtime dedicated supporter, selling a variety of souvenirs, from pins to sweatshirts, inside a tiny shack steps away from those toiling away on the city’s float.
Andrews worked on her first float in town back in 1959 and to this day continues to enjoy watching others appreciate the work of those who give of their time. “When you hear the ‘ooh and aahs’ is just a wonderful thing,” she said, explaining that the Float Mom tag came as a result of feeding the construction crew-members on weekends during the fall and winter months.
“I like helping out the guys because they put so much time into this every year,” said Andrews. “Every cent we raise from merchandise goes back into the float.”
Chris Colburn, the float’s construction chair, said all the work on the chassis and moving parts are complete. “We’re in full decoration mode now, so it’s a work in progress,” he said. “We’re getting there, on target. We’ll be ready to go.”
Paul Abbey, who has served in a number of capacities on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, including president, has also put in long hours constructing city float. “I never like to say, ‘We are on target or on time,’ I always say ‘it will be done.’”
The statement came with plenty of confidence. The city has been building floats since 1893 and has never missed a deadline.
Joining Maui, volunteers come from all over the country – this year as far away as Florida – to ensure the float finishes on time. A giant map is on display at the float site with colored pins indicating where some of the help has come from to be a part of the South Pasadena float experience.
Minnesota, Texas, New York are all represented. “Putting it on their bucket list is a big reason why many come out year after year,” explained Colburn. “They see it on television and say, ‘I’d like to be a part of that some day. They come out and love it, then comeback. We have a number of repeat customers.”
Like Andrews, Abbey lives for the moments when he hears children say, “Ooh, look at that…that is really cool,” talking about those admiring the city’s float.
Those moments are why he gives up so much of his time to be a part of the South Pasadena’s entry year after year. It brings a tear to his eye just thinking about it.
Busy working on the float was Alex Ugelow, who resides in Culver City, and his friend Sean Kennedy from Wisconsin were looking for something interesting to do before settling on South Pasadena for the day to be a part of the decorating experience.
“It’s fun and beautiful,” said Ugelow. “We’re glad we could help out.”
Kennedy said it was a “cool cause and something unique to do,” as he anticipates going to the parade and watching the local entry roll past thousands of spectators along the route and millions more viewing it on television worldwide. “It is kind of fun to watch the float go by that you worked on.”
The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association has been a part of the Rose Parade for 126 years, giving it the distinction as being the oldest self-built float in the parade.
Janet Benjamin, the decoration chair for the SPTOR, likes the progress being made on the city float during “Crunch Time,” as the clock ticks down on January 1.
“The roses are starting to go in,” she said, surveying the float. “The drum is done, the guitar is almost done, we have people finishing up the [South Pasadena] sign and we have florists here working on the flower arrangements. It’s going well.”