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Burb's Eye View: Gearing up for 'The Dream Machine'

January 03, 2012

I’ve arrived at the Flower Cage and my sinuses beg me to turn around and get back in the car. They’re quickly appeased, however: The covered area behind the Burbank Water and Power Auxiliary Warehouse is more like a tent than a standing structure, and though many volunteers pack the space on this warm Friday afternoon, the air is comfortable and relaxed.

I’m told that’s usually the case when volunteers get to work on flowers for Burbank’s Tournament of Roses Parade float.

“As long as they’re around the flowers they’re happy; they’re not around the fumes of the glue,” said Philippe Eskandar, the floral prep supervisor.

I’ve shown up ready to volunteer, but organizers are facing a good problem — the great weather has encouraged many volunteers to aid in the float’s construction, so there’s not much work at the moment.

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But that doesn’t damper the mood — the spirit of the effort to bring this yearlong masterpiece to vibrant, Technicolor life is palpable in the many families reporting for duty. I met two families who wrap their float work into their annual holiday traditions.

Between the four of them, the Gross family contributes hundreds of work hours to the cause. Son Adam, 13, who alone estimated working about 80 hours in the week leading up to the parade, is a perennial volunteer for several school groups and service agencies in Burbank. His constant work on the behalf of others earned him the city’s Austin Cook Award for Outstanding Youth last year.

Today he has just one job: Ensure that the flowers get where they need to be before the judges come to view the float over the weekend.

“There are a lot of fun jobs, and you get to help the community make something the whole world sees,” Adam said.

Another fun job is held by a man who is introduced to me as “Pyro.” In 1996, Rick “Pyro” Penunuri helped Burbank’s Rose Parade float become the first to incorporate pyrotechnics “and get away with it.”

This year, he is overseeing the orange fog that will billow from smokestacks at the back of “The Dream Machine,” a giant petal-powered device that converts a boy’s dreams into reality.

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