Verdugo Views: Rose Parade volunteer has rosy memories

Judie Estep, who was born and raised in Glendale, has a long history with the city's Tournament of Roses float.

It all began when she was a little girl. “My dad was the adult leader of the high school group at North Glendale United Methodist Church. I was 10 or 11 at the time, but I went along.”

Each year, the group decorated Glendale's float as a fundraiser. “I was too little to put flowers on, but I cut blossoms off the stems.”

The float designer during this time (the 1960s and early '70s) was Sam Coleman. “I had to call him Dr. Coleman, my dad called him Sam,” Estep said in a phone interview.

She recalled the night Coleman's mother came by to see the city's float. (Isabella Coleman was a float designer for more than 55 years.) “She was all dressed up. Here we were in our dirty clothes with glue all over us and there she was in her mink stole!”

In 1971, Estep graduated from Crescenta Valley High and began working part-time for the Parks and Recreation Department. She became full-time in 1978 — the year Proposition 13 went into effect and float funding disappeared.

A Rose Parade Committee, formed by the Days of the Verdugos Assn., launched a drive to fund the 1979 float “Sports Spectacular” designed by Herrin-Preston, according to The Ledger, Dec. 2, 1978.

Reflecting the post-Proposition 13 days, the float was smaller than usual and cost $15,000, $3,500 less than the year before.

In previous years, Estep explained, the designers provided the volunteers and gave them a donation. That year, to save money, the city decided to provide the volunteers.

When the director, Henry Agonia and staff members Nello Iacono and Bob McFall discovered Estep's float-decorating skills, she was put in charge of recruiting volunteers and appointed as crew chief.

“For two weeks that's all I did. The last week was the busiest. I would go home and take a three-hour nap, then go back to work, but it was a wonderful experience. Everyone worked together. By the time they pulled the float out for pre-parade lineup I was so tired I couldn't see.”

In the following years, Estep was the liaison between the float committee and the city. She also worked with Glendale Centre Theatre to costume the float riders and was in charge of getting riders on the float for judging.

For a couple of years, she also recruited volunteers. “I went to high schools and community groups and gave presentations, went to service clubs to bring in adults, advertised through the News-Press, bringing in residents who said, ‘Oh, I've always wanted to help decorate the float.' We told them to wear grungy clothes and be prepared to get sticky hands and fingers.”

And every year, after the parade, Estep would get a call from Barbara Boyd, of Central Library, who was assembling what is now known as Special Collections.

“Every year she would say, ‘don't forget I need pictures.' We would gather up brochures, programs, newspaper articles, photographs, everything.”

Eventually, the city increased their Rose float funding and Estep returned to her ‘real' job as sports coordinator. Now living in Northern California, she said “the float was just a part of what I did.”

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