Several Mesa residents hit the road to ring in the new year. But they weren’t looking to take part in normal New Year’s festivities like watching television as a glass ball descended a pole in Times Square, watching fireworks or clinking champagne glasses.
They celebrated the week leading into 2013 by getting glue on their fingers and “pushing petals.”
Bob and Janet Brady, Neil and Brenda Peterman, Larry and Kathleen Wheaton, Monroe and Linda Warren, and Jim and Marj West all belong to the Petal Pushers, an elite corps of volunteers who travel from all over the country to gather in Pasadena, Calif., each year. These volunteers spend the week attaching thousands of roses, carnations, lilies, mums and other flowers, as well as natural materials such as seeds, coffee beans and leaves, to create the majestic beauty and splendor of the floral floats riding down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard during the annual Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
“This has been a great opportunity to spend time with our friends while working together on something meaningful,” said Brenda, who came to Pasadena with her husband and the Wheatons.
“This is our first year involved with decorating for the parade,” says Linda. “Our friends told us about the Petal Pushers and we thought it would be a great way to be involved in a service project.”
Many of the Petal Pushers come to decorate the Lutheran Hour Ministries float — a Tournament of Roses perennial for 63 years and the only Christian-themed float in the parade. The float’s sponsor, St. Louis-based Lutheran Hour Ministries, is a Christian outreach organization named for The Lutheran Hour, the world’s longest-running Gospel-centered radio program.
A large number of the 5,000-member-plus Petal Pusher organization’s volunteers help out on up to eight other Rose Parade floats as well — turning the week into one of the largest servant events in the country. It’s an opportunity for many to make new friends, network and share expressions of the faith that for them gives true meaning to this experience.
“We have been working on the Shriners float snipping straw and flowers,” said Kathleen. “You don’t realize all the detail that is involved with building the floats, especially the magnitude of all the flowers involved, until you see it in person. We have also loved getting to know the other volunteers from all across the country and seeing the pride that everyone takes in their work.”
“We are truly impressed with the amount of work and coordination that is needed to put these floats together,” said Janet, who belongs to an RV club called the Arizona Cactus Ramblers that had 38 of its members ranging in age from 60 to 90 in Pasadena to help build the floats. She worked on the Shriners float with her husband and their grandson, Kyle Salazar.
“We have been working on the HGTV float and it is such a team effort,” said Linda. “It’s amazing to see everything behind the scenes that is necessary to put these floats together and to see everyone taking such pride in what they are doing. We have loved getting to know the other volunteers from all across the country.”
The 124th Rose Parade presented by Honda, under the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” was watched live on television by approximately 40 million Americans and by millions more around the world. The New Year’s Day parade this year featured 42 floats composed of around 40 million flowers among the 91 units that also included marching bands and equestrian units.
“I couldn’t wait to see the float in the parade,” said Linda. “We feel great to know that we have been a small part of such a beautiful float that is seen by millions of people.”
“Seeing the parade in person has always been on my ‘bucket list,’” said Marj. “Knowing that we played a small part in building the Shriners float as it goes by us on the parade route will just be a bonus!”
Lutheran Hour Ministries is a Christian outreach ministry supporting churches worldwide in its mission. LHM produces Christian radio and TV programming for broadcast, as well as Internet and print communications, dramas, music and outreach materials, to reach the unchurched in more than 30 countries. LHM’s flagship program, The Lutheran Hour, is the world’s longest-running Christian outreach radio program. It airs weekly on more than 1,400 stations. For information about Lutheran Hour Ministries, visit www.lhm.org. For information on the Petal Pushers and its volunteer opportunities, visit www.petalpushers.org.