Dodgers' Rose float coming along

Dodgers' Rose Parade float coming along

AZUSA, Calif. -- Upon entering the Tournament of Roses Azusa/Aspan facility early this morning one could see the float designed for the Los Angeles Dodgers built, but with no paint on it, the 35-foot Dodgers player who will be in the front of the float is laying face down on scaffolding; his large head resting between two long wooden planks, like someone who would be getting a massage -- but in this case, a young woman is just beginning to paint the hitter's eyes a lighter shade of Dodger blue.

This is the beginning of the final push to have the float ready for the judges to view early in the morning on Dec. 31 and ride down Colorado Boulevard on Jan. 1 as the Dodgers organization's first entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

"The first day we are finishing all the painting and different colors on the float and getting ready for the flowers," said Craig Bugajski, the designer of the float who works for Festival Artists Worldwide. "At the same time there are volunteers, who are prepping all the dry flowers and scissoring, and we'll probably start applying it later on in the day, tomorrow and the 28th. Then we will start applying all the fresh flowers on the 29th and 30th all night until the 31st."

The rules of the parade are simple: every inch of the float must be covered with real flowers or seeds, no plastic flowers, no exceptions. So the team of volunteers who are meticulously supervised by veteran float builders, work with all kinds of flowers of different sizes and colors in order to make the float, entitled "Celebrating America's Favorite Pastime," look the way its designer envisioned it.

"There are hundreds of thousands of them," described Bugajski. "There are flowers from all over the world, roses from Ecuador and Colombia, carnations, tropicals from Hawaii, orchids, all different kinds of stuff."

The flowers are used in all kinds of ways. Some are used in full to cover a section of the float, the petals of other flowers of a certain color are taken off and mashed up in a blender until they are almost in a liquid form to become a flower paint, because every painted area of the float must be covered with some kind of flower. Yellow signs on the float are being covered with dry corn seed, the kind one would use for popcorn, but, in order for it to look right volunteers are painstakingly placing each seed in a row with glue, the thick side of the seed up and the smaller side down.

Many of the volunteers work for the Dodgers or are fans of the team are spending the holiday break from their jobs to work on the float.

"We have 100 volunteers working a five-hour shift on the first day and expect many more of them to come out throughout the week," said Camille Johnston, the Dodgers' senior vice president of communications, who announced earlier this month that she will be leaving the organization right after the parade. "Today Farmer John, one of our longtime sponsors, had their truck out today and served Dodger Dogs to all of our volunteers, so we expected a lot more people to show up on the first day and we're very excited about it."

One of the volunteers who really enjoyed coming out was Mark Langill, the official team historian, who is also a native of Pasadena, where the parade takes place every year. The the first thing he did when he arrived was to grab a paintbrush and paint "Dugout" on the front of the float.

"I have never woken up to do any kind of painting or shrubbery or anything like that," joked Langill, who has worked for the Dodgers since 1994 and written four books about the team. "People here are not only excited about the parade, but this is a precursor to the season -- everybody is excited about our 50th anniversary and how great to merge the famous parade with a famous baseball team for 50 years in L.A., so this is sort of our opening day today -- so not only do we get to look forward to a great parade, but an exciting 50th anniversary celebration as well."

There were two other volunteers whose work on the float had a very unique meaning. Sylvia and Yvette Garciaparra are the mother and younger sister of Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers' third baseman, who along with first baseman James Loney and pitchers Hong-Chih Kuo and Takashi Saito are the four current players riding on the float.

"It was so weird because this year we decided we were going to work on a float," recalled Sylvia, who with her husband Ramon and Nomar's other siblings have been longtime residents of nearby Whittier. "We've always wanted to do this. We've gone to the Rose Parade and gone the day after to see all the floats on display. We were going to go work on a float, not knowing the Dodgers were going to have a float in the parade and definitely not knowing that my son was going to be on it. Now it's even more exciting that we're doing it."

"I think this is really exciting," said Yvette, who worked for the Dodgers in 2006 shooting fan photos. "Just making the float and knowing that my brother is going to be on it is even more exciting than ever."

Mother and daughter, along with Yvette's boyfriend and a family friend, spent the afternoon painting the grandstand area of the float, where Nomar will be sitting during the parade.

By the end of the day, the ballplayer's face was almost fully painted, and the float was starting to show the bright color that was displayed in Bugajski's design that was all over the facility. There is still a lot more work to do, but based on the enthusiasm seen today by everyone working on the float, it will be more than ready for its New Year's day debut.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.