In a cavernous barn at the Burbank public services yard, Girl Scout Troop 988 was gathered at a table at the foot of the city's 1995 Tournament of Roses float.
Danielle Malaty, 9, held out a piece of window screen and received a handful of ground split peas. She sifted out fine green dust, leaving a pile of BB-sized yellow granules. The float, titled "Reaching for the Wind," depicts three boats sailing amid leaping dolphins and a fin-flapping sea turtle. The yellow split-pea sand would be sprinkled on the back of a sail to give it a rich natural color.
Danielle is a good Southern Californian, and she was doing her part to put on the event that makes the Southland the star on a worldwide stage. On Monday morning, thousands of people like Danielle will troop to the floats to begin the annual chaotic, festive, around-the-clock week to complete the finishing touches: applying acres of fresh flowers.
The San Fernando Valley will be represented by four of the 54 floats in the Jan. 2 Pasadena parade: one each from Burbank and Glendale and two from corporate sponsors--Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers Inc. and International House of Pancakes Corp. of Glendale. And it will take a small army of Valley residents to bring them to life.
The floral fantasies that glide down Colorado Boulevard are serious business for commercial float builders and, in Glendale and Burbank, they are the source of enjoyable year-round hobbies. Volunteers do everything from helping design the floats, building rough frames, raising funds and applying long-lasting dry coloring material such as rice or ground split peas. The year's work leads up to that final crazy week when the flowers are applied--and thousands of once-a-year helpers are needed.
Flowering is a memorable sight. Tons of flowers are unloaded from trucks by workers who sort them by color, clip off their stems and arrange them on flats. Thousands of roses and irises are carefully placed in individual vials. The floats swarm with volunteers--40 or 50 at once--gluing flowers one at time--even a petal at a time--while a crew chief acts as director, pacing a catwalk above. The aroma of flowers and the fumes from adhesives are dizzying.
"You end up with glue in your hair, glue under your nails--but it's fun," said Edwina Carnahan, a retired Unocal Corp. analyst and seven-year volunteer on Glendale's floats.
The wages of the work are exhaustion. Carnahan recalls once following a float to the starting line, gluing on flowers in the New Year's dawn.
"When the parade starts, I'm too tired to go," she said. "I just watch it on TV."
Ernie LeBleu, Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn. president, said that seeing a float on TV after helping put it together is a thrill that never grows old. "You can say, 'I put those flowers on! That's my float!' "
The Burbank float is at 320 N. Lake St. in the barn just north of Olive Avenue under the Golden State Freeway. Volunteers will need to identify themselves to a guard, who will direct them to the float barn.
The Glendale, IHOP and Sunkist floats are being built by C. E. Bent & Son, a professional float builder, at the Rose Palace and the Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena. Bent's director of special events, Bill Walleck, invited volunteers simply to show up in old work clothes either at 8 a.m. or 2 p.m.
The parade theme is "Sports--Quest for Excellence." Grand marshal is professional golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez, winner of the 1973 Greater Greensboro Open and the 1987 PGA Seniors' Championship.
Highlights of the four Valley floats:
* Burbank--"Reach for the Wind." The 54-foot-long float is one of five in the parade built entirely by volunteers. Towering 30 feet, sailboats will carry eight city residents as four dolphins leap, a sea turtle waves its flippers and a pelican flaps its wings.
* Glendale--"Team Spirit." A 35-foot-long float covered primarily with colorful dried flowers, it depicts the nine-member crew of a river raft tossed on white-water rapids. Glendale's last float won the 1994 Mayor's Trophy as the most outstanding city entry.
* IHOP--"Horsing Around." Fifty-five-feet long, it portrays two steeplechase riders leaping a fence in a woodsy setting. One of them is Adalee Velasquez, 13, of Arcadia, who designed the float as the winner of a nationwide contest.
* Sunkist--"Air Races." The fabled Southland citrus producer blew away its competition last year, winning the Extraordinaire trophy as the most spectacular entry more than 55 feet long. This year's float is 50 feet long and 50 feet high and features six airplanes circling a pylon while soaring up and down. Volunteer Sunkist employees worked five months to assemble it. Decorations include 40 crates of fresh lemons and oranges.
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WHERE AND WHEN
What: Flowering the Burbank Rose Parade float.
Location: Burbank Public Service Department yard, 320 N. Lake St., Burbank.
Hours: 9 a.m. to at least 9 p.m. Monday through Jan. 1.
Call: (818) 840-0060.
What: Flowering the Glendale, IHOP and Sunkist floats.
Location: Glendale and IHOP floats at the Rose Palace, 835 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; Sunkist float at Rosemont Pavilion, 700 Seco St., Pasadena.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Dec. 29.
Call: (818) 449-ROSE.