Susan Hands, a floral designer from Scituate, spends the week after Christmas working for Pheonix Decorations, one of the companies that creates floral floats for the annual Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
When revelers count down the minutes tonight to usher in the new year, Susan Hands will be sound asleep.
The 61-year-old Scituate florist wants to be wide awake on Tuesday when the two floats that she helped design are on display before millions worldwide at the Rose Bowl Parade.
“When you’re working in a shop and doing small arrangements, that’s one thing. But coming out here is just the ultimate,” said Hands, a floral designer at Valente’s Florist in Plymouth who has helped create floats for 11 years for the extravaganza in Pasadena, Calif.
On New Year’s Day, Hands and the other floral designers will watch their creations glide by from VIP seats in the bleachers at the stadium. The parade will feature more than 50 floats constructed from chicken wire and covered entirely in organic material, including millions of flowers imported from around the world.
For the past decade, Hands has headed to Pasadena on the day after Christmas to get ready for the parade. And she has been going to bed early on New Year’s Eve, exhausted after a week of working 14-hour days.
This year, Hands has been working feverishly as a lead floral designer for Phoenix Decorations, a company that creates floats for the parade. She has organized thousands of blossoms into giant, intricate shapes in a bid to win the attention of judges and crowds.
Hands says her favorite float was a fire-breathing dragon created for Farmers Insurance Co. in 2004. It was given an award for best animation and motion.
This year, Hands is in charge of the floral designs for floats entitled “Passport to the Pacific,” created for the City of Long Beach, and “We Celebrate Family,” created for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California.
“Passport to the Pacific” features an octopus attacking a submarine in an underwater scene created with blossoms and dried herbs and pods.
“We Celebrate Family” boasts a giant red shoe, with a large Victorian house bursting out on top. The design evokes the charity’s work to ensure that the families of sick children have somewhere to stay while they receive treatment at hospitals. Even the red shoe is made up of a variety of flowers, from cymbidium orchids and gerber daisies to gladiolus and various roses – all sorted out by Hands.
“We have more flowers than you’ve ever seen,” Hands said. “And there are beans and Brussels sprouts and kumquats and onion seeds.”
This year’s parade will be a little bittersweet for Hands, whose mother died last year on New Year’s Day. Despite the timing, Hands said there is no place she would rather be this year. “This is like my second family,” she said.
Kaitlin Keane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.