The Rotary Float at WVRC, October 31st

We began in the usual manner with TONY MARRONE leading the Pledge, which he preceded by some interesting comments.  The frequent combo of LENNY FRIEDMAN and JACK HARRIS took us through America, then adding Happy Birthday in honor of Stand-in-Prexy PETER MORE - who turned 27 today!  PDG BILL GOODWYN gave the Invocation, pointing out that God doesn't keep score - his gifts are free.  

Prexy-for-a day PETER introduced our current District Governor, Rick Mendoza, and his aide, Pat Cashin - (having them with us was our best solution to the sometimes lack of Visiting Rotarians).  SALLY BRANT brought along Bitsy Hotelling, whose husband Dick is with LA 5.  PP RALPH WOODWORTH, who is a long-time member of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, had as his guest Mark Brewer, their Senior Pastor.  I commented afterward to Mark that he "had a tough last name for a minister," to which he of course agreed. Shirley More was with PETER, and we had ANOTHER Visiting Rotarian, Clyde Porter, from Woodland Hills Rotary.  Governor RICK spoke briefly about our continuing excellent participation in District activities, pointing out that we had the second highest attendance at the forthcoming Paul Harris Celebration Dinner.

Shirley MORE reminded all of the Rotary Auxiliary tour on November 12th which features a guided tour of LACMA, with lunch beforehand.  Please send in your reservations soon, OK?    We have 36 tickets for "Pearl", a new play at the Geffen in Westwood.  The date is Sunday the 15th of December at 2 p.m.  There are two ticket prices prices, $33 and $29 so please sign up right away - PETER MORE is the contact, I believe.  My note taking was somewhat interrupted by the sudden appearance of IGOR, of recent Demotion fame. He appeared in all his hunch-backed splendor, laden with many bars of candy - these were distributed freely, and it was a nice touch on the daytime event of Halloween.  However, Prexy-Elect PETER used this occasion to point out that all the candy distributed at this time of year is a real boon for the dental profession.  He asked those dentists present to rise, and then asked each of them if they had any solution for the dec! ay problems caused by this overwhelming distribution.  Since none appeared to have any workable suggestion, each was fined one hundred big ones for this lack of professional expertise.  

As we struggled manfully (not really a sexist remark, I hope) to get back on track, PP DAVE WHITEHEAD reminded us all of the forthcoming Computer Class at his office - it will be Saturday afternoon, November 16th - and it would be helpful to DAVE if you could RSVP to him, please.  The final announcement of the day was a reminder that the Yearling Breakfast would be held on November 19th - 0730 at the Holiday Inn at Sunset and the 405 freeway.  Please tell HARLAN LEWIS if you will be there. (Editorial Comment - I would urge all non-yearling members to attend - and if, afterward, you didn't find it both educational and worthwhile, I will PERSONALLY pay for your breakfast!  It's that uplifting, really.)  

Our speaker for the day was Larry Crain, who was introduced by PDG ANDY ANDERSON.  ANDY has been involved with the Rotary Float at the Rose Bowl for the past several years, and he knows Larry well.  Larry has been in the float business for twenty-one years, the last eleven as the President of Charisma Floats.  They build four Rose Parade floats each year, part of the total fifty-four floats that appear.  This year's Rotary Float will be celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the first manned flight, by the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk.  The Rotary Club of Kitty Hawk, by the way, will be building a replica of the original craft - which is only fitting, since one of the Wright brothers was a Rotarian.

The construction process starts in January, a couple of weeks after the Parade.  First, the floats are taken down, since the chassis will be reused.  They are mostly powered by 357 HP Chevy engines, and are called 'Floats' since they are raised some eight inches off the chassis.  The frames weigh from five to fifty thousand pounds, and start out being 55 by 18 by 17 feet tall. The driver is 'blind', by the way, but has a forward observer who guides him every step of the way.  The floats are tested three times before the Parade.  The 2nd and 3rd tests are with all personnel aboard.  They must be able to evacuate the float within 45 seconds, basically as a fire precaution.  With some of the floats being over 50 feet fall, 45 seconds is a tough time limit to achieve.

The float design must be submitted for approval by February 1st each year.  Once approved, the float is built, sprayed with an insulation covering 2 to 3 inches thick, (called cacooning) and then painted.  This serves as the template for the placing of the materials with which it must be covered - 20 % organic, and the rest all fresh flowers.  The floats are decorated by volunteers, starting on December 26th.  They mostly come from within a 200-mile radius of Pasadena, but some are from out of state  - all are booked in advance.  They will have some 2500 such volunteers this year.

As an example of flowers that are used, Larry buys from 10,000 to 50,000 roses each year.  They come from Ecuador, since climatically that is when they bloom.  The flowers arrive over a two or three day period.  They are cut, put into the small vials, which are then filled with water, and all go into refrigeration trucks. Examples of the organic materials used include sesame seeds, crushed walnuts, even seaweed.  

LENNY asked if the Parade has ever been rained out. No, since the floats aren't fragile, in the ordinary understanding of that word.  What do the floats cost.  From 75K to 300K - that's dollars, man. But as some sort of comparison of the cost of advertising exposure, a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl costs two million dollars - plus the cost of producing the commercial! The Parade is viewed by five hundred million people worldwide, with a million and a half actually along the parade route.  So it's safe to say that our Rotary float will be seen by a huge audience.  Thanks, Larry Crain, for a most informative talk (and the slides were certainly helpful).

An important note, particularly for those of you not on the Internet.  As of Saturday afternoon, PP DOUG DESCH was still at St. Johns.  He has lost most of the liquid which he had gained (this due to his kidneys being only about 25% functional) and expects to be home by the time this reaches you. Lets continue to show DOUG how much we care.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe