She can scoop poop with the best of ‘em, a South Pasadena senior who is having the time of her life as the Rose Parade rolls around each year.
Peggy O’Leary, a true veteran, has been cleaning up after horses the past 33, save one when the iconic event was cancelled on account of COVID, and two years ago coaxed her husband, John Vandercook, a relative newcomer, to also take on the chore.
In addition, South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Wheeler and former City Councilmember Diana Mahmud also handle the yearly task.
Yet, at age 80, O’Leary is the matriarch of the bunch, bringing a passion to the role for more than three decades. “I love the energy on the morning of parade, greeting parade goers, wishing them happy new year, viewing the floats up close, hearing the bands perform, and, of course, ‘scooping’ after the horses,” she said in an email.
It’s no surprise that O’Leary has been a pooper scooper cleaner upper longer than anyone in the parade’s long and distinguished history.
Full of enthusiasm, hearing the roars, applause and laughter from the crowd are all the ingredients needed for a memorable day for O’Leary, who also enjoys waving and taking a bow after clearing away the mess.
O’Leary, who has never missed a parade since 1990 – the 2021 event cancelled on account of the pandemic – was doing her thing in Monday’s 134th edition as 16 equestrian units making the famous turn at TV corner – Orange Grove and Colorado – left something in the street behind. Teams of two were at the ready, one with a shovel, the other a broom, and quickly removed it in bags, storing it under the bleachers and later picked up by cleanup crews. O’Leary carries air freshener in a pocket to heighten the parade experience for those with seats up front, catching the not-so-pleasant odor.
Other volunteer scoopers of poop follow the horses along the 5-1/2 mile journey down the parade route, racing out from the sidelines and quickly removing the debris.
Full of enthusiasm, O’Leary brings fun, laughter and a whimsical attitude to the task. The bottom line, she insists, is to have a good time.
Her parade day starts before the crack of dawn, walking with Vandercook from South Pasadena past parked floats along the way, before settling in at Orange Grove and Colorado, where others donning the familiar white overalls for the role start to decorate brooms and shovels with roses.
After mingling with the crowd, the team of 13 pooper scoopers move into their positions at 7:30 a.m. to await the parade’s start a half hour later. Together they stand prepared to make a quick dash when the need calls, smiling, of course, while performing their important duty.
What’s the best part of it all for O’Leary? Oh, that one’s easy – enjoying the time at the parade with her super pooper scooper husband.
“I have great fun celebrating the new year with her, up close and live, as we watch the parade in person together,” said Vandercook. “And this is very special to me since she is ‘The Queen’ of the pooper scoopers.”