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Parade floats a product of sweat, tears

Participants gear up for the Days of ’47 festivities

SHARE Parade floats a product of sweat, tears

They look splendid on parade day, meandering through downtown Salt Lake City in all their grandeur.

But some of them are not fit to be seen in public just a few days before.

No, not the politicians.

The floats.

By the time July 24 arrives, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours will have gone into the production of each of the 56 floats entered in this year's Days of '47, KSL Parade, not to mention the 24 floats in the Youth Parade set for July 22.

Parade spectators see the final results but may not appreciate all the sweat and tears — hopefully no blood — that were shed by the many volunteers and a few paid craftsmen.

And they may never know how close some of the entries came to withdrawing from the annual event altogether. Some floats are still under construction.

The Christmas Box House, a first-time entrant, began running into a time crunch late last month.

"The purpose of the float is to thank the community for their support in finishing the Salt Lake shelter," said Jed Platt, event coordinator for the Christmas Box House, an organization that builds shelters for abused children. "Our priority is to finish the shelter, and so that's where all of our efforts have been concentrated for quite some time."

Platt said the hope was that the parade float, like the Christmas Box House itself, would miraculously materialize with the help and support of the community. Fortunately, Gale Hendry, president of Exhibit Fabricators, learned of the non-profit group's struggle and offered the help of his company and an entire crew.

"Two weeks is a pretty short time frame, but we're used to deadlines and short time frames so we're pretty confident we can do it," Hendry said. "Whether it'll be as phenomenal as we'd like or just adequate, we'll see."

Modern Display, one of two main float-building companies in the area, still had three floats left to build from the start. But Lane McClure, the company's production designer, predicted a crew of six to eight workers would finish those floats comfortably ahead of the deadline.

Entrants in the All-Horse Parade Saturday needed somewhat less primping.

There were steeds of all shapes and sizes — from draft horses to miniatures, Fox Trotters to Tennessee Waltzers.

The crowd along 200 East between 100 South and 500 South were entertained by riding groups doing precision drills.

Rodeo Royalty, restored authentic carriages, and 4-H children showing off their animals gave the spectators plenty to see.

But for groups creating floats on their own for the larger parade next week, McClure said some of them get in over their heads and have to scramble to finish on time.

First-time floatmakers "have a tendency to make it harder than it really is. They try to produce a Rose Parade-quality float on a minimal budget," McClure said.

"Floats are not rocket science, but it's a big chunk to bite off at one time if you've never done it before."

The average Days of '47 float made by Modern Display costs between $10,000 and $15,000, including labor, McClure said. The typical Rose Parade float costs between $60,000 and $300,000, he said.

Mike Farrington figures his Sandy Utah Central Stake's float will be worth as much as $40,000, including labor, by the time it moves past the 200 East bleachers July 24. And the money certainly wasn't spent on the base vehicle — a 1979 Cutlass Supreme donated as-is for $150.

As many as 70 volunteers have helped out on the float, Farrington said — including inmates at the Utah State Prison in Draper, which is within the stake's boundaries.

"The most difficult part is recruiting people. Everyone is so busy," with the possible exception of the inmates, Farrington said. "I've lost sleep at night worrying about it.

"Some people don't even know how to use a saw, and others are finish carpenters, you never know. It's difficult because you don't want to step on anybody's fingers or hurt feelings."

Brandon Bott, a University of Utah student, has put in at least 10 hours a week on the stake's float.

"It's been funny just to see people you know doing things they don't normally do," Bott said.

The stake's float will feature a giant girl and several geese, complete with flapping wings powered by some young and healthy stake members on exercise bikes hidden inside the float. Bott believes it might have a shot at one of the many awards to be handed out on parade day, especially because of Florence Hansen's handiwork.

Hansen, the 80-year-old sculptress behind the Hansen Classics Originals sold by ZCMI, Deseret Book and others, said the float represents her first attempt at large-scale carving. The girl's head is about 8 feet in size.

"It's a new experience but it was fun. I learned how to work with a chain saw and hot blades," Hansen said.

Dennis Hoyne learned how to work with his in-laws. Actually, Hoyne reports, that was no trouble at all. And the Hoyne family highly recommends the experience. The Hoynes are the only extended family to sponsor a float in the Youth Parade. Twenty of the 24 floats are sponsored by LDS Church groups.

"The kids do the papier-máché, and we do the construction out of chicken wire," Hoyne said of the project, which involved about two dozen family members. "We found it to be a good activity for the kids and the family to get together. It'd be nice if more families could get involved."

The theme of this year's Days of '47, KSL Parade is "Pioneer Memories — Millennial Vision, 1847-2000."

The July 24th parade will begin at 9 a.m. at South Temple and Main Street, continue east to 200 East, south to 900 South and east to Liberty Park at 600 East.

The July 22 Youth Parade will begin at 10 a.m. at South Temple and Main, continue east to 200 East and south to 400 South.

For more information, check the parade's Web site at www.daysof47.com or call Frank Hales at 560-0047.


E-mail: zman@desnews.com