I don’t get smarter by making the right decision. On January 2, I was a whole lot smarter. It was clear I had made a big mistake by thinking I could keep up with Key Club and Circle K members riding on our Rose Parade float. After dancing for nearly three hours on the Kiwanis International float as it moved down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, USA, on New Year’s Day, my body was giving me feedback. It was great fun.
There are many aspects of the Rose Parade float experience that put me in awe.
The number of people it takes to create a float;
The amount of work it takes to decorate each float;
The number of people along the parade route;
The pride of Kiwanis membership shown in Pasadena and around the world.
On December 27, when I walked into the Rosemont Pavilion, I was not prepared to see more than 500 people wearing blue Kiwanis t-shirts with the Centennial Anniversary logo emblazoned on the back, running all over the place. It takes 7,000 Kiwanis volunteers two weeks to get nine floats ready. There are two shifts a day, with 500 volunteers on each shift. These volunteers are there to raise money for the California-Nevada-Hawaii Key Club scholarship fund. Everywhere you look, you see a Kiwanian. One of the most interesting sights is seeing all of those blue Kiwanis shirts putting flowers on the Rotary International float. Now that was a sight to see!
You have probably seen video and photos of the Rose Parade floats. Those images do not do the works of art any justice. On our Kiwanis birthday cake float, there were 20,000 blooms. There were roses, carnations and mums, to name a few. Each flower had to be placed by hand.That doesn’t include the cranberries, blueberries, rice, seeds or leaves that also filled space.
On New Year’s Eve day, I was amazed at how many people were already lining up along the parade route at 10 a.m. All kinds of people were setting up camp. There were groups with chairs, blankets, air mattresses, grills and fire pits as it was predicted to be one of the coldest New Year’s Eves ever. As we returned to our hotel room after the judges reviewed our float, the number of people along the route had grown exponentially. Colorado Boulevard had turned into a giant party. Music blared. Fires roared. Families grilled. Kids watched TV. Friends chatted … and there were still 14 hours until the parade started. By the next morning, the parade route was jam-packed with nearly 750,000 people - every one of them danced with us as our float passed blaring Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.” While we didn’t win any official awards, it was clear the audience gave us the People’s Choice Award.
Lastly, I am inspired by how proud people are to be a Kiwanian. The number of tweets I received and the amount of Facebook response to our participation in the parade has been fantastic. But the reaction hasn’t been just about how beautiful our float was or how great my dancing was (many people told me I still have great moves), the best reaction has been about Kiwanis’ 100th Anniversary and the impact we have had on lives around the world.
The Rose Parade started the Kiwanis International Centennial Celebration. I look forward to celebrating all that Kiwanis has done during the past 100 years. I look forward to celebrating the lives that have been saved because of our completion of The Eliminate Project. I look forward to celebrating all that Kiwanis will do in the future to make sure every child has access to a bright and happy future.
Happy anniversary, Kiwanis!