Visions of cheese

Susan Chow was where she wanted to be Saturday, 10 feet up on scaffolding in a Pasadena warehouse, gluing red kidney beans onto the front of Glendale's float in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade.

A week earlier, Chow started chemotherapy to treat cancer in her nasal passage. For three months, she endured dozens of radiation sessions on the road to recovery. During that time, she said, Chow hoped her treatment would leave her free to work on Glendale's float.

"I've been doing this for 10 years," Chow said. "I wanted to make sure I was out of the hospital."

Chow was one of more than 100 volunteers helping City Councilman Dave Weaver, head of the float decoration committee for the Glendale Rose Float Assn., get this year's entry ready.

The theme for 2011 is "Say Cheese," with the float featuring a huge bellows camera with several oversized picture frames from which Glendale dignitaries will wave at spectators along the parade route.

Weaver took a moment Saturday to assess the progress so far.

"I'm comfortable," he said. "I had 160 kids last week. We have 120 this week. I just hope they come back after Christmas."

The week between Christmas and the Jan. 1 parade is when the action ramps up for float builders, with visits from judges and the delivery of fresh flowers for the final decorating frenzy.

On Saturday, volunteers painstakingly separated blue statice flowers from old stalks before dumping the flowers into blenders to be reduced into a fine, uniform blue powder.

Jennifer Sotomayor, a 16-year-old Glendale High School student, was among those sponging the blue powder onto pillars on the float that were painted with glue.

"I think it's kind of fun," she said. "And kind of dirty, too. I'm all covered in flowers."

Alec Mouradian, also from Glendale High, said, "I thought it was going to be boring and tedious, but I'm having a good time."

He added that one reward was knowing that "I'm contributing to what everyone will see on New Year's Day."

Vincent Tam, 28, stood at the highest part of the float, attaching strips of seaweed to a camera carried by a huge mouse. He and his brother, Albert, have worked on the float every year since they were students at Glendale High, he said.

Tam enjoys using the different art techniques, being a part of something big and seeing the creative work on the dozen other floats coming to life in the warehouse, he said.

While his job at a doctor's office might force him to miss a day or two, he said he remains dedicated to the cause.

"Especially when the fresh flowers come, I'll be here," Tam said.

Asked what she will be doing on New Year's Day, Chow stopped with the kidney beans and imitated the motion of clicking on the TV remote control.

"Lying down," she said. "Resting. Watching it."

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