For Laurel Hollopeter, working on floats for the Rose Bowl parade is a dream come true.
It’s a dream he’s gotten to relive six times.
Hollopeter is the floral manager for the First Avenue Hy-Vee in Iowa City. As an accredited floral designer, he got a chance several years ago to travel to Pasadena, Calif. to volunteer on float creation for the annual parade. After that first year, he’s been invited back as a paid member of the Fiesta Parade Floats team, which designs and creates floats for various companies and institutions.
“You get hooked. It’s an awesome experience,” he said.
Hundreds of volunteers help with each float’s creation, with a few floral designers such as Hollopeter directing the activity. From the initial design concept, floral designers decide how to arrange the hundreds of thousands of flowers that cover each float.
A total of around 18 million flowers are reportedly needed to complete the parade’s floats. There will be 42 floats in this year’s parade. Floats also incorporate seeds, bark and other plant material.
Hollopeter, 53, of Victor, will fly to Pasadena Dec. 26. Work on the floats beginnning Dec. 27 and continue until the final judging on Dec. 31.
The parade will be New Years Day at 10 a.m. before the Rose Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m.
He said working on the Rose Bowl parade floats has made him feel like part of a close-knit family of floral designers from around the country. It’s also helped him conquer a fear of heights- at times he has to scale the huge floats to arrange flowers near the workshop warehouse ceiling.
Floral design is his passion, he said, whether at the parade or back in Iowa in the Hy-Vee floral department.
“With flowers you can make people smile,” he said. “No matter how bad of a day you’re having, if someone brings you flowers, it cheers you up.”
Look for Hollopeter’s work this year on two floats – the Kaiser Permanente “First Steps to Total Health” float and the Underground Service Alert “Protecting Your Dream Right in Your Own Backyard” float.