When the crowds line up on Jan. 1 at the Tournament of Roses Parade, they will see the first float sponsored by the International Red Cross, celebrating the nonprofit organization's 125th anniversary.
What they will not see is Herbert Hoover III, grandson of the former President, who will be inside the float sending radio messages of peace to Red Cross stations all over the world.
"The idea is going to be to talk to as many people as possible," said Hoover, a San Marino resident who has been a ham radio operator for 40 years and a Red Cross volunteer since 1964. "This is the first time this has ever been tried."
Titled "Images of Hope," the float will feature nine flat aluminum satellite plates that will revolve and form pictures depicting Red Cross volunteers at work.
Hoover and several other members of the Pasadena Radio Club, including workers from the Jet Propulsion Lab, will use the steel-and-wire frame of the float as a "living antenna" to get the signal out.
"It's going to be a technical challenge," said Hoover, who will use the identifying call number and letters W6KA, assigned to the Pasadena Radio Club by the Federal Communications Commission.
"We're utilizing a unique situation to call attention to the beneficial relationship between Red Cross and amateur radio," Hoover said.
Roger Keith, executive director of the Pasadena chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross frequently makes use of amateur radio enthusiasts in disasters.
"It increases our resources," he said. "We rely heavily on their capabilities to help us with communications."
Most recently, ham operators were used during the first few hours after the Oct. 1 earthquake to establish communications when the chapter's phones went out, Keith said.
The float, which will carry five Red Cross volunteers representing the five continents where the Red Cross operates--North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa--will give the Pasadena chapter a chance to strut its stuff, he said.
"It's allowing the Pasadena chapter, which is one of 3,000, to demonstrate to the national chapter how top-notch we are," Keith said.
"Most chapters don't get an opportunity like this. The closest thing to a comparison is hosting a convention."
The float is being financed by money raised from the sale of pins commemorating the organization's 125th anniversary and its participation in the Rose Parade. More than 5,000 pins, priced at $125 for the anniversary pin and $7.50 for the parade pin, have been sold, Keith said.
The plan to have Hoover operate the ham radio inside the float, Keith said, was developed in February as a way of honoring the parade's theme, "Thanks to Communication."
Having Hoover ride in the float "will provide a greater impact internationally," Keith said, because of Hoover's work with the Red Cross all over the world.
Hoover, who is president of the Margaret Watson and Herbert Hoover Jr. Foundation, which supports medical research in sight, hearing and nerve regeneration, first got involved with the Red Cross when he was in the Navy from 1945 to 1947.
In 1964, he began volunteering as a disaster worker, service he continued until 1972, when he became chairman of the Pasadena Red Cross.
In 1978, Hoover was elected to a six-year term on the American Red Cross's 50-member national board of governors, which oversees the operation of the organization.
Being a member of the national board has become a tradition in the Hoover family.
"I was the first person of a third generation to serve on the national board of governors," Hoover said.
"My grandfather was honorary chairman, as is every President, and my father was appointed by President Eisenhower while he was undersecretary of state," he said.
Most recently, Hoover and his wife, Meredith, helped set up a shelter in American Samoa when three of its islands, Ofu, Olosega and Tau, were hit by a hurricane last January. Thirty people were injured and 2,000 left homeless.
"Red Cross, regardless of your interests, has something you can do," Hoover said. "There's a certain satisfaction to doing something in an organized manner that is helping people."
The float is being decorated by volunteers. Thirty California chapters already have committed people to work on the float, as well as others from as far away as Washington and Des Moines, Iowa, said Greg O'Sullivan, chairman of community volunteer services for the Pasadena chapter.
Volunteers began decorating last month, when they glued seeds on the base of the float. Dried flowers will be put on Saturday () and Dec. 12, and the fresh flowers will go on from Dec. 26 to 30.
Volunteers are welcome, O'Sullivan said. "Every seed planted by a volunteer symbolizes the national spirit across the world," he said.