Local women help decorate floats for the Rose Bowl Parade

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Submitted photo

Peggy Iba, left, and Penny Johnson spent several days in Pasadena, Calif. recently where they volunteered their time working on floats for the Rose Bowl Parade.

Submitted photo

Peggy Iba was one of two Dawson County women who volunteered to help decorate floats entered in the Rose Bowl Parade. The parade took place on New Year’s Day.


Ever since its creation in U.S. universities in the late 19th century, football has become as American as apple pie and complaining about taxes, introducing its own rituals and customs that would become yearly traditions as it developed as a sport. In fact, the new year kicks off with one of these traditions, the Rose Bowl Parade.

Created in 1890 by the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, Calif., the parade began as a show of the flowers that bloomed in Southern California while elsewhere in the country was buried under snow in the midst of Winter. The club sponsored the first Tournament of Roses, so they thought the morning before the game was a good time to have the event.

Now, thousands of volunteers and organizers spend the days leading up to the game putting together intricate displays that will crawl down Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena on the first morning of the new year. This year’s theme was “the Melody of Life,” bringing volunteers from near and far to design musically inspired floats of all kinds of styles. In all, there were 88 entries that used over 8 million roses and an unknown amount of other flowers, fruits and seeds.

While the volunteers come from all over, it’s rare that anyone from Glendive gets to be a part of the experience. This year, however, locals Penny Johnson and Peggy Iba volunteered their time and energy to help bring the event to life.

It was unique at the very least,” Johnson said about the experience.

Iba added that being a part of the event gave her a new appreciation for the work that went into building the floats and the parade in general.

The two became volunteers when Johnson was asked by the chairman of Lutheran Hour Ministries, a recognized service organization of the Lutheran Church, if she would like to help decorate the organization’s float in the parade. Johnson and the chairman had previously worked on the same committee within the organization. After being invited to volunteer, Johnson said she called Iba to see if she wanted to volunteer as well. Iba said she was excited to be a part of the event and immediately said “yes.”

They registered to volunteer through petalpushers.org, the official website for the parade organizers.

The two traveled from Glendive to Pasadena, using public transport all the way. Though both had been to California before, getting to help with an event this large was a new experience to both of them.

Once there, the ladies spent four days in total helping put together multiple floats. They helped decorate floats for Wells Fargo, Honda and the town of Alhambra, Cali. Since they were first time volunteers, their roles were relegated to more repetitive tasks, such as cutting petals and gluing them to the displays. However, they still enjoyed the experience, especially interacting with the other volunteers.

“It was so fun to meet the different people. I worked with people from Arkansas, a lot from around the area, from southern California, Illinois, even a rotary exchange student from Austria,” Iba said.

Johnson added that some families even make it a tradition to volunteer.

The work they did was carefully planned out, as parade organizers were very particular about how things needed to be done. The floats could also only be made of “living things” so the correct steps had to be followed and the flowers needed to be prepped and preserved until they could be put on the floats. If there had been any missteps in the process, the flowers could have easily wilted before the parade even began.

Johnson added that being a part of the group that helped put the floats together gave her a whole new appreciation for the parade, saying that while she used to tune into the parade to just see the Lutheran Hour Ministries float, she now wants to watch the entire parade and see the work that went into the other floats.

“I didn’t care to watch the parade except the Lutheran Hour float every year. Now I’ll watch the whole thing with much more appreciation,” Johnson said.

The two didn’t walk away from the event empty handed either. One of the floats they worked on did manage to win an award, leaving the two with what they described as an unparalleled sense of pride in their work, making it well worth the trip, even if the weather was a little colder than they would have liked.

Once their work was done, Johnson and Iba said they stuck around to watch the parade and the game where the Ohio State Buckeyes claimed victory over the Washington Huskies, 28-23.

While they both said that they would encourage anyone to go and be a part of the experience, it may be some time before either of the ladies do it again themselves. Iba said that she would probably go again after a few year if friends of hers wanted to go as well.

For anyone interested in volunteering, there are multiple ways to do so. You can register through the Petal Pushers website or if an organization you are a part of has a float in the parade, you might be able to request to volunteer through your organization. Organizations at this year’s parade included individuals from Kiwanas, Lions Club and other organizations.

Contact Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

“It was so fun to meet the different people. I worked with people from Arkansas, a lot from around the area, from southern California, Illinoise, even a rotary exchange student from Australia,”
Peggy Iba