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Volunteers Keep Parade Afloat : Many Will Put in 14-Hour Days in Dash to Finish Tournament of Roses Creations

December 29, 1993|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She was sticking to her tiger like glue.

And parts of it were sticking to Marie Inshaw, too, as she squeezed beneath its snarling face--armed only with a container of rubber cement.

The 40-year-old medical office manager joined thousands of other volunteers Tuesday on a last leg of Rose Parade preparations: pasting perishable flower petals onto the 56 floats that will roll New Year's Day.

Since mid-November, Inshaw has traveled weekly from Huntington Beach to Pasadena to work on the huge float depicting prehistoric animals. Between now and Friday, she's looking at 14-hour days--followed by an all-night stint New Year's Eve guarding the float at the parade's starting point on Orange Grove Boulevard.

There are times during her daily 120-mile round trip that she wonders why she's doing it. But then the beauty of it all kicks in again. And Inshaw knows.

"Working on the floats is addictive. It's like chocolate," she said. "It gets in your blood."

Not to mention in your hair and all over your face and arms. Inshaw was covered with clumps of dried pampas grass, the same material she was using to create the furry stomach for the saber-tooth cat she has come to love over the last six weeks.

Flowers aren't the only things used to cover Rose Parade floats. Seeds, leaves and husks are among the 100 pieces of vegetation being used on the $175,000 float, sponsored by Kodak.

Fruit is being attached too. Jeff Pilarta, 21, of Pasadena was slicing limes and kumquats to cover the tail of one dinosaur. Helga Vidor, 68, of Long Beach was cutting up pineapples to go on its feet.

The juicy center part of the pineapple was being thrown away. So Vidor was eating as fast as she could. "I'm into recycling," she mumbled through a drippy mouthful.

*

One hundred five years of parades have turned float building into a science in Pasadena and surrounding communities, where several companies work year-round on entries.

The Charisma Float Co., for example, is using a polyethylene chloride foam substance developed by the Navy for use in mothballing ships. The foam forms the base for the flower vial-studded $120,000 parade entry the company is building for Rotary International.

The parade has turned flower-gluing into a science too.

Major float builders now contract with outside church and civic groups for the volunteers needed to cover their entries with plant material. Although individual decorators don't profit, their groups can earn $500 to $15,000.

Members of the Lutheran Church started out years ago decorating a lone Lutheran Hour float. But their group became so good at it that it will field 5,000 workers pasting millions of chrysanthemums and lentil seeds on 11 floats.

The Lutheran group's organizer, Richard Gast, 45, of Mission Viejo, is also providing Peter Pan and Tinkerbell for the Delta Airlines float: daughters Mandy, 11, and Becky, 9. The two girls will also have worked "17 eight-hour shifts" decorating floats by New Year's Day, Mandy said proudly.

Volunteers organized by three San Diego-area high schools were decorating the UCLA and Wisconsin floats. Parent Clyde Bone, 41, accompanied daughter Sara, 17, on the trip. Good thing too.

Moments after the 120 youngsters arrived at a float barn near the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, another worker was struck by a car and injured. Bone, a San Diego firefighter, administered first aid to Paul Van Den Brink of Reseda after he was thrown an estimated 75 feet by the car. He was recovering Tuesday afternoon in a local hospital, co-workers said.

Security guards and scaffolding crews hired by C.E. Bent & Son float builders were on the alert to keep anyone from being injured inside the barns. Looky-loos were shooed out of the construction zone. But for $1, spectators can view the work from balconies at several of the larger building sites.

Brian Pinder, a 24-year-old Denver law enforcement officer, schedules his vacation each winter to work as a guard and scaffold-mover. His parents live in Pasadena, he said. And after five years of float duty, his co-workers have become like family.

Despite the well-oiled float building machinery, things can drag a bit. Then the emergency call goes out for more volunteers.

When builders of the 162-foot Sunkist float noticed things were lagging slightly, they put out a call for help that was broadcast Tuesday morning on several local radio stations. Problem solved.

Walk-in volunteer Catherine Webb, 47, an out-of-work TV storyboard artist, was gluing a pink strawberry and buckwheat mixture into a dinosaur's mouth.

But some volunteers were surprised to find themselves crushing dried flowers into fingernail-clipping-sized pieces instead of actually attaching blossoms to some fanciful creation.

And Anu Mallya, 50, of Irvine was surprised to find herself sitting at a 40-year-old electric roller iron. She and Allison Peterson, 15, of Yorba Linda were flattening corn husks to cover a huge wagon wheel on the city of St. Louis float.

*

Audrey Essner, 72, felt right at home when she settled down to work on the wheel. That's because she is visiting from St. Louis. And she quickly recognized the desk-size GE Ironer.

"I have one just like it at home," Essner said. "I use it to iron tablecloths."

But no one was busier Tuesday than Michelle Lofthouse.

The 30-year-old Monrovia resident designed 12 of the 56 floats in this year's parade. She started drawing plans for the dozen entries in November. Of 1992.

"I have the first float in the parade, and the last," she said.

But Saturday's parade won't be her last. Like they say, float building gets in your blood.

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