By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer
For several years, teams of folks from Ridgecrest have been building floats and entering the Rose Bowl Parade. Cheryl St. Amand is the current Youth Adviser of the Rotary Club of China Lake. She tells us that the Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee uses its own funds to provide this experience. “ It’s one of those experiences that is so unique and wonderful. It just stays with you,” she says.
Their float, Imagine Rotary, won the Princess Award for the most outstanding floral presentation among entries 35 feet and under in length. The prize is bragging rights and the joy of accomplishment.
Thirty-five students, parents, teachers and advisers from the Burroughs High and Immanuel Christian School Interact Clubs took the three-hour drive to Irwindale to the warehouse of Phoenix Decorating Company (PDC) to work an 8-hour shift decorating the floats. Plus one this year was 16-year-old Tianna Lessard from Maine who was recruited by St. Amand, her grandmother.
PDC works with participants to design their float; PDC builds the framework which is color coded so it becomes a “paint by numbers” project. The huge warehouse had 16 floats being built. Our local teams arrived for their shifts starting in December. For the first few weeks, it entailed gluing “onion and poppy seeds, yellow and green lentils, kidney beans of different sizes and colors, Lima beans, white beans.” They also cut petals off of flowers that were ground and used as paint. For their horse’s nose, they used seaweed.
“We started adding flowers right after Christmas,” says St. Amand. And, yes, they keep the warehouse chilly to keep the flowers fresh. The primary flowers they used were mums. First, they cut the stem off so there was no bump at all. “Then you put glue on the back towards the petals and they are stuck so that you can’t have a single square millimeter of float showing,” she explains. “This can be tricky. If you push the center of them too hard they start to just die. They really just fall apart. The glue has to get to a certain level of stickiness.
“There are roses around the bottom of the float and they are incorporated to a lesser degree in areas that will be able to be reached at the end of the decorating process. Each rose has a little water bottle on the bottom of it with a little spike.”
Lessard had the experience of a lifetime, which St. Amand says is on many people’s bucket lists. “I thought that it was really exciting,” says Lessard. “I wasn’t the only person to travel to come and work on the floor. We were cutting flowers and we met this couple who was from Connecticut, and we had a nice conversation with them. It’s pretty fun. My grandmother asked me so many times to come and visit and work on the parade float with her. So this year, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to go.’”
St. Amand clarifies, “The Rotary Float Committee is a separate charity and they get donations from industry and individuals. I go out on the East Coast and I talk to Rotary Clubs about the float and solicit donations for the float. It is an ongoing thing all year long. If you’d like to ride the float, it’s very expensive, but that money goes to the floats.” This year the float cost about $150,000.
Students also participate in fundraising. To donate go to RotaryFloat.org where you can find a lot of information about the project as well as donate.
“The Rotary Club of China Lake is dedicated to community service and we focus specifically on students,” says St. Amand. “We have two Interact Clubs; we do a very large fundraiser every year. We have the rotary scholarship and auction, and we earn money to give students scholarships every year. Every Rotary Club has its own focus and it’s what you feel passionate about. We have different projects including people doing road cleanup and the animal shelter.”
Becoming a member starts with attending their meetings. “ We meet every Wednesday at Casey’s at noon. We have a speaker every week. The first three times you come someone will sponsor you for your lunch. If you’re really interested, you can apply and then the club sponsors your lunch until you become a member. There are certainly some obligations which you get a better understanding from attending the meetings.”