My Rose Parade Float Experience

An event my group attends every year is the Rose Float Parade in Pasadena, CA. Each time I go, I’m always awed by how Herculean tasks- like creating the entire Rose Float Parade- can be accomplished by the efforts of a group of selfless, caring people.

According to Wikipedia, “the Rose Parade, hosted by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, is an annual parade held mostly along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day.” It is organized by the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, and is a widely anticipated event to attend or watch on television.

Pasadena is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Aliso Viejo, and our shift began at 8 AM. Tired, drowsy, and desperately wanting to sleep, our group met up at our class coordinator’s house for carpooling at 6:30 AM. We split up between two cars, piled in shoulder-to-shoulder, and began the long journey to Pasadena.

Such a long car drive might seem unbearable, but it was enjoyable with all my group members. Bonded by our exhaustion but excited to volunteer, the car ride was quick.

Upon arriving, I was overwhelmed by the amount of volunteers that had come help paint the Rose Parade Floats. All sorts of volunteer organizations had come out to help, and Lion’s Heart was one of them. As I arrived with my group to the entrance, I wondered if I had accidentally stumbled into a concert or music festival. People had come from all over California, and suddenly, I was touched by the amount of people who had come to help. The world, I thought, is still filled with good.

The warehouse was also shocking. There were about twelve floats in the warehouse, all beautifully and intricately made. They were beautiful and I gawked as I realized I was part of the behind the scenes of the actual parade. As we walked to our work stations, we passed by tables packed with volunteers cutting flowers, people sitting high on beams fearlessly painting sections of the float, and other small tasks that would ultimately build this amazing parade.

“All of this,” an instructor told us, “all of this, volunteer made.”

I’ve done almost every job they give volunteers at the Rose Float Parade- cutting flower petals, painting the float, washing dirty buckets, and my strangely favorite job by far- trash collection and disposal.

The tasks I’ve done for Rose Float seem small and insignificant, but our work was a crucial part that would come together with everyone else’s work to create the floats that people see in person or watch on television. It was humbling to be a part of the process, but also eye-opening. Anyone can make a difference- even the smallest action can mean the world.

As I mentioned before, my favorite job I’ve done so far is trash disposal and collection, which definitely seems weird. I worked this job with volunteers from other volunteer organizations — people I had never seen before — separated from my Lion’s Heart group. Our job entailed collecting full trash cans from flower petal cutters all around the warehouse, load as many trash cans on to our cart, and then push the cart back to the disposal area. Instead of being confined to one area, I was able to explore all over the warehouse, see each individual float up close, and interact with volunteers from all over California.

Most importantly, I became close friends with everyone I worked with. We started out as complete strangers, and at the end of it we became truly good friends. When our shift ended at 4 PM, it was bittersweet, because I would most likely never see them again. We exchanged social media and numbers, and we still keep in contact even today.

Through volunteering, I’ve made so many lasting friendships, and this was no exception.

It was almost 6 when we arrived back home, but I felt fulfilled as I left, knowing that I was a part of the construction of the Rose Parade Floats.

When I saw the Rose Parade on television, a part of me felt pride on behalf of volunteers. Together, we were able to build the amazing spectacle that everyone enjoys on New Year’s Day.

If you live in California and are able to commute to a Rose Float building warehouse, I highly recommend volunteering there. Without a doubt, I will be going back! Regardless, don’t be afraid to try unique volunteer opportunities, it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Written by Audrey Xia – Lion’s Heart Intern and Blogger Audrey has been an intern of Lion’s Heart since summer of 2018 and a member since 2015. She enjoys writing, volunteering, and playing soccer.

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