Marney Kincaid scooped up a batch of dry blue petals from a plastic container and began placing them one by one on a large pink fish.
“I’ve spent three days on this fish,” she said. “Petaling is labor-intensive.”
When it’s finished, the dried petals will give the impression of scales on a fish, which will then be placed on the Cal Poly universities’ float entry for the 2020 Rose Parade on Jan. 1, New Year’s Day.
Kincaid has been volunteering as a float decorator for more than 20 years and is just one of hundreds of volunteers putting the final touches this weekend on more than three dozen floats that will take part in the 131st Rose Parade.
Inside the Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena, across from the Rose Bowl, the air was laden Saturday with the scent of hay, coconut, glue, cumin and other natural materials used to assemble the colorful floats. A cacophony of conversation, music and welding echoed through the barn-like building.
A line of spectators watched and took photos of the floats as volunteers added vegetables, seeds and pieces of wood to some of the large floats.
Among them was 69-year-old Edwina Campbell, who had traveled from Houston to California to visit family. It was her first time coming to the parade’s float-viewing events.
“These people have more patience than I would have,” she said, laughing.
Campbell said she was amazed to see the number of volunteers working on the floats as well as the engineering and design work that goes into building the mobile artworks.
Standing together, Rosa Coto, 51, and Moises Ruiz, 55, said it was their first time coming to see the floats before the parade, which serves as a prelude to the Rose Bowl game and typically draws tens of thousands of people from around the country.
“I’ve always wanted to see them in person,” Coto said. “I like looking at all the details on the floats, it’s amazing.”
This year’s Rose Parade theme is “The Power of Hope,” which aims to celebrate the influence of inspiration and optimism. Rita Moreno, Gina Torres and Laurie Hernandez will serve as this year’s Grand Marshals.
“It is about the belief that what is wanted can be attained,” according to a statement posted on the Rose Parade’s website. “From the struggles of those who came before us to dreams yet to be realized.”
Coto said her favorite was the “Pasadena Celebrates 2020" float, which was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.
The float will feature a 30-foot Statue of Liberty holding the tablet of the 19th Amendment and dressed in a suffragette sash. The float will also be adorned with giant banners declaring: “Failure is impossible” and “Honor the past, pledge the future.”
Outside, more than 30 women stood side by side cutting eucalyptus leaves for the float. Loretta Kelly Denkins, 89, said she was especially proud to take part in the decorating.
“I can’t believe it took so long for women to win the right to vote,” she said. “I don’t understand it, some of these women had husbands, sons, brothers and none of them wanted to give them the right to vote? Some of these women went to jail.”
For the Cal Poly float, university officials went with an underwater theme, christening it “Aquatic Aspirations.” The float features a submarine navigating around a sunken shipwreck that has become a home for marine wildlife.
Celeste Doiron, a flower field manager for the team at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, said the float was a joint project between students at her campus and Cal Poly Pomona.
Last March, teams from both campuses got together and came up with the idea for the float.
“We knew we wanted a submarine, a shipwreck and sea life,” she said.
At a nearby table, Kincaid took a brush, picked up a cup of flower glue that sat in warm water to keep it from hardening and began to cover a small section of the tropical fish with glue. She scooped a batch of dry delphinium petals — small, round and blue — and began decorating the pink fish’s blue bands.
“When I saw the theme of the float, I became twitterpated,” Kincaid said.
Fish have always been a big part of her life, she said. Her parents used to take her fishing, and at home she had her own aquariums.
That explained the two koi fish tattoos swimming around her navel. She also has a lion fish on her hip and an archer fish on left arm.
“I’m interested in fish,” she said, smiling.
Nearby, 57-year-old Shannon Weisenberger suddenly picked up a small blue fish to be attached to the float and shook it, causing its shredded delphinium petals to fall off.
“Hello, fish,” she said.
There were chuckles.
“All of a sudden they come to life,” Weisenberger said.