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Decoration goes into overtime

Volunteers covering Rose Parade floats with flowers and accessories in a flurry of activity before the big day Friday.

December 30, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

George Tisdale, an aging military veteran, bounced around a room of roses, orchids and tulips Tuesday, eager to display various techniques he’d learned in his nearly two decades of volunteering as a float decorator for the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn.

Every winter for the last 17 years, the 86-year-old retired U.S. Marine drives the 75 miles from his home in Redlands to Burbank. Still, he said it’s difficult to describe the exuberance displayed in the final days before the float makes its way to Pasadena.

“People are moving fast and they’re moving deliberately, making sure everything is on schedule for the judging,” Tisdale said.

The steady hum of work reverberated through the Burbank Water and Power Yard Tuesday, where hundreds of volunteers were expected to work around the clock through Thursday morning.

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A “final judging” is scheduled at 1:45 p.m. the day before the float leaves at 8 p.m. in Pasadena.

Tisdale said he plans to join the crowd to see the float off.

Barnyard Aces features a swath of green grass, large red barn and silo. On board is a scale Stearman PT-17 expected to reach heights of more than 30 feet.

Devoid of flowers but brimming with dry materials as of Tuesday afternoon, the float will be covered with shaggy green grass and about 50,000 unique and exotic roses, orchids and carnations from across South America and Asia, said volunteer Philippe Eskandar, who oversees a crew of flower-handlers.

The trick is preparing all the flowers, but not cutting them down and applying them too soon, leaving enough time for them to wilt, said Eskandar.

“It’s all in the timing,” he said.

It’s something the 22-year-old has ample experience in — his mother for years owned a flower shop in Burbank, he said. And she brought him to volunteer on floats as a youngster.

On Tuesday, Eskandar demonstrated to a small group of volunteers how to squeeze rose stems into small vials filled with water and nutrients. The vials are then stuck into the Styrofoam barn walls.

Much of the float is covered in dried materials, including rice and cotton. Magnolia leaves dried and crushed in coffee grinders act as the dirt.

But the float wouldn’t be complete without its signage, which was carefully covered in small white beans by residents Natalie Greenfield and Jeremy Schweon.

Knowing that they had a hand in the building the float was a point of pride, they said.

“You look at that 1/4-centimeter portion and say to yourself, ‘That was done by me. I did that,’” Greenfield said.

Eligible for nearly every award, organizers said they hope to continue a winning history with “Barnyard Aces.” They’ve secured coveted honors all but two years since 2000, and brought home the Queens Trophy in 2004 with “Moosic Moosic Mooosic,” organization President Robert Hutt said.

A continued point of pride comes in the fact that the city is one of only six that still builds its floats from scratch, said Ryan Babroff, 22. Most hire professional engineers and welders and bring in volunteers for last-minute decorations.


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