Monday, December 29, 2008

Rose Parade Passe

If you are a fan of the annual New Years Day Tournament of Roses Parade, you won't like this post - but I think you should read it anyways.

It was always a tradition in our home to watch the Parade every New Year's Day. We would ooh and ah at the creativity and design of each float as it flashed by on our screen. In the 1930's, my dad (a farmer and avid gardener) and a friend had driven to California one winter and actually saw the parade in person. He would vividly recall the look and the fragrant smell of all the flowers on the floats. He always wanted to take mom to see it someday, but they never got the chance.

The Rose Parade has been in existence since 1890. It started with horse drawn carriages decorated in flowers and has evolved into an extravaganza of floral festooned motorized vehicles with computer programmed animation. Each year has a theme which is announced shortly after each parade. Floats can take up to a year to design and build.

Nowadays, most of the floats are designed and built by float building companies, but there are still several that are done by volunteers. Thousands of man hours go into the creation of each float. Because the float is covered in "live" material, the majority of the assembly must be done in the week before the parade. Each float varies, but the estimated time to do the assembly is that it would take 60 volunteers, 10 hours/day for 10 days to decorate each float. That is 6,000 hours/float or the equivalent of 3 people working 40 hours/week for a year with two weeks holiday. Multiply that by a few dozen floats and that comes to a LOT of time!

"Rose Parade rules require every square inch of float surface be covered with "flowers or other natural botanical materials." According to Hynd, natural botanical materials are defined as substances that "have grown, are growing or will grow." So flowers, seeds, mosses, barks, dried leaves, vegetables and grains can all be employed on floats as long as they’re used in their natural color. Dyeing is not allowed." "Making The Floats" HGTV

As early as April, float designers begin ordering hundreds of varieties of flowers and other living items from vendors around the world to be delivered in the week leading up to Christmas.

That is a lot of hours and plant material to use for only one parade and a day or two of viewing afterward before it all starts to wilt and the whole process starts all over again for the next year.

I used to love watching the parade when I was young, but as I grew older, I began to seriously question why so much time and money would be directed towards this annual event. The city of Pasadena has made millions from the annual event that draws countless visitors and world wide attention every January 1, but is it really the best way to use such precious resources?

Think about it.

What if the 6,000 volunteer hours/float were devoted to other volunteer activities such as working with: sick kids; child and youth programs; music/arts/sports programs; community centers; hospitals; nursing homes; schools; homeless shelters; food banks; etc. If those hours were devoted to other worthwhile causes, would there be a reduction in troubled youth and adults or as much violence?

What if the money that is used to design the floats, buy and import the supplies to decorate the dozens of floats, promote and stage the parade as well as the monies paid by various networks and advertisers was used for programs such as literacy, youth at risk, or research into cures for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's and other worthy projects?

What if the land and resources that were used to grow and supply the various types of plants, flowers and seeds could be used to grow fruits and vegetables to feed the hungry in poorer countries and also the less fortunate in our own neighborhoods and communities. If there were more fresh healthy foods, there would be less obesity and malnourishment. People would have access to better food choices, which would lead to healthier lives and less reliance on an overworked health care system. Better food availability and more volunteers in local programs, would do wonders to improve the overall mental and physical health of millions of people all over the world.

Now I know that this is all speculation and that the Rose Parade is not going to end any time soon. nor do I have anything against the City of Pasadena. I don't even have anything against parades in general. I have nothing against flowers or the people who grow them. I know that not all parade volunteers would be good at or want to do other volunteer jobs, but surely there is some other way they could volunteer their services to better their own communities or other causes.

It just bothers me that so many of our worlds most precious resources are being used for such a limited display when there is so much hunger, poverty and people in need.

I just wondered, what if....


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