Family reflects on participating in Tournament of Roses Parade
An Illinois Valley family got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in January to represent and salute the hard-working American farmers in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
The Dentons, who operate Hefty Seeds Co. in Princeton, were asked to join in on the fun of designing, decorating and riding on a float that appeared in the parade Jan. 1. Their company was sponsored by RFD-TV, who wanted to celebrate 20 years of Hefty broadcasting its “Ag PhD” show on the television network.
The parade theme was “Make a Difference.” And the thought was, who makes more of a difference than the American farmer?
Mike Denton said farmers receive little to no recognition for the work they do to feed the world. Plus, many times they’re perceived in a negative way through controversial issues that surround farming practices.
Denton said his goal for the experience was to try to provide an all-around positive image for the country’s farmers.
The family flew out to Pasadena a few days before the parade and joined volunteers from all over the country to help build the float. The work load was so demanding that it required organized shifts to get it done in time.
The float design incorporated a combine, tractor and water tower to represent rural America and was covered in 10,000 roses, plus other plant material that was sent in by farmers to be displayed on the float.
Denton said seed was collected from all 50 states. Every inch of the display was covered in some kind of organic material, he added.
Denton described the tedious work involved in gluing on individual kernel seeds and the steps it took to set each rose. He explained the roses came in with long stems. Each flower had to be cut down to four-inches and stuck into an individual floral water tubes to preserve the life of the flower. The vials were then stuck into Styrofoam to stay in place on the float.
“It’s mind-blogging to me. It was like, we have to do what to how many flowers?” he said, laughing.
“And it was all done by hand.”
The float set a parade record with its ability to hold 100 riders. Denton said usually people don’t ride on the floats — if they do, maybe a couple or so. But no one in the history of the Rose Bowl Parade had succeed with 100 riders.
The float earned the Wrigley Legacy Award for being “the most outstanding display of floral presentation, float design and entertainment.”
Denton admitted he did have second thoughts about the way the float and farmers would be perceived, especially in California. But he said he was blown away by the positively they attracted.
Denton said it was amazing to see the amount of people lining the five-and-one-half-mile route cheering, clapping and yelling “thank you, farmers” along the way.
“I waved for two and a half hours, because people were happy, they were smiling. It was unbelievable to see that the entire parade route,” he said.
“I wish every farmer could have been there with us, because it made you feel proud to be a farmer. A lot of times, farmers don’t feel appreciated for their hard work — the long hours, the dollars they spend, and the capital they throw out there just to hope for a good rain.”
Denton said he’s proud to work with a company that offers a number of opportunities and education for farmers through their radio and television shows.
“They’re doing so much to make the farmer better at what he’s already good at. I love that about our organization,” he said.