Tournament of Roses Parade has some eager local voluteers

By Lynn R. Parks

Ever since she was a child, Mekenna Richardson has enjoyed watching the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, televised every New Year's Day from Pasadena, Calif.

"I love that it's all-natural," said Mekenna, a senior at Seaford High School. All floats in the parade are required to be made of plant material: flowers, seeds, even fruits and vegetables.

Last year, Mekenna and her mother, Penny Austin-Richardson, an English teacher at Seaford High School, traveled to Pasadena to watch the parade and to attend the shows that are put on during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. As part of their vacation, they visited the several stations where the flowers are put on the float frames. They were surprised to learn that for some of the floats, volunteers are welcome to help attach the flowers.

In April, they filled out their applications to volunteer with Petal Pushers, an organization that gathers volunteers to help decorate the parade float that is sponsored by Lutheran Hour Ministries.

And this December, Mekenna and Penny will travel once again to Pasadena – not just to watch this time, but to help out. They are flying to California on Dec. 26 and will go to work bright and early the morning of Dec. 27.

"Last year, we had no idea that we could volunteer to work on the floats," Mekenna said. "Once we found out, we knew that we were going to try that next year."

The theme of this year's parade is Inspiring Stories. The float that mother and daughter will be working on is called "The BibleƉ God's Story." If they aren't needed there, Penny said, they will be able to help with another float.

Volunteer shifts go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work continues until 11 p.m. and they are prepared to stay that late if need be. They will spend four days working on the floats, and then will just enjoy being tourists during the remainder of their stay. They will return home Jan. 3.

Both Penny and Mekenna said that the Rose Parade is much more impressive in person than it is on television. There are about 80 floats in the parade, only half of which are shown on TV. It's the same with the bands, they said. And none of the performance acts that are part of the parade are included in the broadcast.

"I'm never going to watch the parade on television again," Mekenna said.

Mekenna and her twin brother, Nash, will graduate from Seaford High this year. She plans to attend either Ohio State University in Columbus or the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford. But even then, she said, she will continue to travel to Pasadena in December with her mom, to enjoy the Rose Parade.

"We're going every year," she said.

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