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O.C. Hands Add to Parade Colors

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Globs of glue cling to fingers, paprika dust blows about, and a seemingly endless array of colorful flowers waits to be stuck, one by one, onto floats. But that’s just part of what attracted dozens of Orange County residents to volunteer their decorating services for tomorrow’s 110th Rose Parade.

“It’s fun,” Julie Kohlscheen, 27, of Fullerton yelled from atop a 30-foot high scaffold as she shook yellow flower petals onto the head of a giant caterpillar, one of more than 100 parade entries.

Kohlscheen, a youth leader with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fullerton, has made the trek to Pasadena for three years to be part of the behind-the-scenes support for the parade, expected to be seen by more than 400 million television viewers worldwide.

“You see it on TV and you want to be a part of it,” said first-time volunteer Megan Humphrey, 14, as she sat amid a sea of bright orange marigolds that needed to be prepared for use on a float.

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Humphrey came with her mother, Jan, and other members of the Trabuco Canyon Chapter of the National Charity League, a community service group comprising mothers and daughters. When they heard volunteers were needed to decorate floats they decided to give it a try.

Humphrey’s friend Kelly Maguire, 13, said she was looking forward to watching her handiwork on television: “We thought it would be really fun to say ‘Oh! We did that float!’ ”

Other first-time decorators, Anaheim Girl Scout Troop 646, sat for hours at a long table, noisily chattering as they applied glue in zigzags to the back of hundreds of eucalyptus leaves. The leaves were being glued to a telescope, a bear and the scales of justice, all to be featured as part of the float “Celebrating Women’s Success.”

“It’s really fun and seems harder than it is,” said Girl Scout Loralie Baum, 13, even though she and troop mates Lauren Burns, 14, Annie Clement, 14, Brenda Tran, 12, Lauren Mangigian, 12, and Alexis Roelke, 13, had all been gluing and pasting for at least five hours.

Other sticky-fingered laborers were less enthused about the job.

“It’s all right,” said a glum Chris Brown, 13, who was part of a group of more than 20 volunteers from Zion Lutheran Church in Anaheim. Chris had hoped for a spot working atop the scaffold, but didn’t meet the age requirement. He had to settle for a ground role gluing carnation petals.

For the Gasts, the Rose Parade is a family affair.

It started in 1985, when the family moved to California from Wisconsin. Homesick during the holidays, they decided to cheer themselves up with a visit to Pasadena to watch the floats being built.

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They wound up on the working floor, and after seeing the operation up close, decided to come back the next year as volunteers.

Dick and Lynn Gast now oversee about 5,000 volunteer Petal Pushers, people from churches, Girl Scout troops and other youth organizations who volunteer their time for parade preparation.

The Petal Pushers group was started by a committee run by Southern California Lutheran Churches who work to raise money for the annual Lutheran Hour float. In return for the hundreds of volunteer hours the group provides, a decorating company gives the Lutherans a discount on the $100,000 cost of their float.

“There are no schools to teach people how to do this--volunteers just become experts after a while,” said Jeff Ruiz of Costa Mesa, a spokesman for the Petal Pushers. Float decorating became a family tradition last year, when Ruiz’s wife became a crew chief.

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“Now the whole family comes,” he said.

* 110th ROSE PARADE: Viewers’ guide offers maps, the list of entries and transit tips. B2


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