12/31/2013 05:35 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rose Parade Floats Are A Dream Come True For Volunteers


PASADENA -- Jessica Brough grew up watching the Rose Parade and wanting to see the floats.

She also grew up knowing she wanted to study engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

The Simi Valley native's interests merged Monday as volunteers plucked and glued flower petals, seeds and other plant material onto the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Rose Parade float "Bedtime Buccaneers" in a tented structure outside the Rose Bowl.

"I feel awesome about this," Brough, 21, an aerospace engineer major and the design committee chairwoman for her campus, said as the float, a concept in February, neared completion.

The float shows a brother and sister whose imaginations transform their bed into a buccaneer ship decorated with more than 11,000 roses that will roll along the high seas. An octopus, kitten, dog, other critters and cannons round out the main float and smaller second float.

The universities' floats are among 44 that will join marching bands, equestrian units and dignitaries in the Rose Parade on Wednesday. Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers, is grand marshal.

Hundreds of volunteers decorate the creations in the days before the parade. Decorating is open to spectators, who came out in droves Monday morning for a close-up look.

Chip Gentry and his wife, Alice, traveled from Austin, Texas, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, which was Sunday. The couple will watch the parade from bandstand seats at the start of the 5 1/2 -mile route.

I never realized how much detail was on them," Alice Gentry said of the floats. "I thought they put big flowers on them."

Linda and Bob Krause, of Hacienda Heights, sat at a table, gently sticking yellow carnation petals to letters that spelled "Poly." The couple have volunteered to decorate Rose Parade floats for 25 years.

Initially, it was a nice break during the week Bob Krause closed his business for the holidays. They continue to do it because it's fun.

"We've done just about everything," Linda Krause said. "We've ironed corn husks and put sweet rice in a blender to create powder."

Across the warehouse-size tent, Don and Suzy Poole, of Cleveland, and Suzy's friend since high school, Kerry Voll, of Raleigh, N.C., helped decorate the Singpoli Group float.

The three first-timers had put decorating floats and watching the parade on their bucket lists.

Suzy Poole was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012 and Voll with breast cancer the same year. Don Poole underwent a lung transplant 18 months ago and was traveling for the first time since the surgery.

On Monday, the three plucked white mums from their stems and placed them upside down in a cardboard box. The flowers would soon be glued to the float "Connecting Cultures, Delivering Dreams," which features a winged white horse from a Chinese legend.

A friend in an online breast cancer support group who lives in Pasadena helped Voll buy parade tickets and learn about float decorating.

"This has been absolutely fantastic," Suzy Poole said. "All those years we've watched (on television) -- they always do those stories about the volunteers."

John Hefflin, of Covina, answered questions from the crowd and directed volunteers. Hefflin is a fabricator with Paradiso, the float builder behind the Signpoli Group and Public Storage floats, among others.

This year was Hefflin's first on the job. In the two floats was enough steel to build three homes; in one float, enough to build a bridge for a small town, he said.

Kaitlyn Bishay, 15, of El Segundo, worked with yellow mums for the Public Storage float, which features a trio of green aliens.

"Everyone sees them, and you get to say, 'That's what I did,' " Bishay said. "I think the aliens are really, really cute."

Outside the Secco Pavilion, volunteers in Kiwanis, Rotary, Donate Life and Petal Pusher shirts ate lunch in the sun.

Orchids dangled in sheets from the top of the Donate Life float, which honors organ donors and recipients.

Terie Cota, of Santa Maria, had planned for two years to donate her kidney to her brother-in-law, Chris Cota, but the Santa Maria man died before the surgery could take place.

Terie Cota was contacted about donating her kidney to another man and agreed. The call for the donation came on her brother-in-law's birthday.

On Wednesday, Cota will be one of a dozen donors walking with the Donate Life float down Colorado Boulevard. The float also features floragraphs of donors. Among them will be Josiah Berger, who was an organ, tissue and cornea donor.

When his relative Sally Cortenbach, of Ventura, learned he would be honored, she volunteered.

"It's awesome," she said. "It's my first time working on the float. It's been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I've ever had." ___