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Volunteers scramble to put finishing touches on Rose Parade floats

Kathy Rimmer was up early Saturday applying orange and peach lentils, sesame seeds and banana chips to a giant octopus.

She was one of about 800 volunteers gathered in a large warehouse in Irwindale who were busy decorating a dozen floats that will be featured in the 129th Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

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“When we first get here [the floats] are just painted foam and then we apply organic material and then everything comes to life,” Rimmer said. A resident of Harrisburg, Pa., Rimmer said she has been volunteering as a float decorator for the past eight years.

“It’s a working vacation,” she said. “I just absolutely love it.”

Tim Estes, president of Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale, said his round-the-clock volunteer crews will be done with the decorating by Sunday morning. Eleven of the floats are set to be displayed for judging at 9:15 a.m.

Two of the floats are equipped to launch fireworks and will have to be moved outside for the judging, he said.

“We try to present the floats as they will appear in the parade,” he said. “Right now, we’re moving along just perfectly. We’ll be working all night long until about 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Estes estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 flowers are used on each float, along with about five to six tons of vegetable matter, which includes a variety of seeds, wild grass and other organic material.

In addition to the hundreds of general decorators, he said, there are more than 40 professional florists who do all the fancy flower arrangements on the colorful floats.

“It’s kind of like putting the icing on the cake,” he said.

Jacque Giuffre, 69, was among those hired to do some of the detailed flower work. She said her first Rose Parade job was as a welder on large animal floats in 1974.

On Saturday, she was touching up cheetahs and tigers on a float sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods called “Sharing Nature’s Bounty,“ one of dozens that will appear in Monday’s parade that begins at 8 a.m. PST and will be broadcast live on local stations.

“It’s fun,” Giuffre said. “It’s like painting with flowers.”

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