Keeping A Float (01-07-2008)
copyright 2008 Aberle Films. All rights reserved.
It all started in 1955, when the small town of Battle Ground, Washington wanted to celebrate its centennial with a single, modest entry in the Portland Rose Parade. Now, over 50 years later, this small town is still entering a yearly float in the Portland Grand Floral Parade.
This is the story of people; people who freely volunteer their time and energy and sweat and sometimes even blood to compete in a major parade against full-time professional float builders. The other guys may have enormous budgets, but the Battle Ground volunteers have the heart.
We chronicle the joys, arguing, laughter, fights and just plain craziness that happens in the course of trying to get the float out the door. Literally.';
This isnít about Portlandís Grand Floral Parade, and itís not just the story of Battle Ground, Washington, It is the story of every small town struggling for existence and trying to keep the spirit of community involvement alive and well in the 21st century.
Some of these people just started last week and some have worked on it for almost 30 years. They come all walks of life. Old and young, it doesnít matter. Mechanics, students, teachers, artists, insurance salesmen, city councilmen, and one woman who was even a truck driver.
Keith, the crusty old businessman who became a school bus driver because retirement was boring, always has a clever story. Alex, the city councilman with the wry comments and off-color jokes is always there when a dirty job needs to be handled. Louise, co-chairperson of the float committee for 7 years and one of the floatís designers, can put up with a lot, but donít let a spider near her! Elaine, who is in charge of flowers and has a laugh that could shatter glass. Nels is in his 80ís, but still works on the float, as long as there is pie for lunch. He speaks softly, but carries a big wrench. And a blow torch.
Aberle Films has been documenting this float building process for the last six years. By taking this footage and adding cleverly animated graphics and interviews with the welders, designers, flower decorators, and even the head of the Rose Festival association, 2 seasons (each with 24 half hour episodes) will emerge. By that time, more years of episodes will be available and could continue indefinitelyÖ as long as there is a float.
Each episode will highlight a specific goalóselecting the design, building the model, choosing colors and flowers, building the frameworks, decorating, the test run, etc. right up through the parade. We will also focus on the people that make all of this happen, and the joys and concerns they go through each and every week.
Portlandís Grand Floral Parade is 1of the 2 parades nationally that require every square inch of the floats to be completely covered in flowers, seeds, or some other plant material. And, of course, it is televised nationally. All of the floats are built, at least partially, by one professional float-building company. All of them, except one. Battle Groundís.
Throughout the years the Battle Ground float has won many awards in its class (30 feet and under). It has always been a contender in a tough competition.
In 2003 the float took 2nd place overall, edging out all but one of the professionally built floats. But the float was positioned last in the parade, and the victory became bittersweet when the broadcast was cut short and only parade-goers saw the float.
In 2006, Battle Ground did the impossible...their float won the Sweepstakes Award, making it the best float in the entire parade.
Aberle Films invites you to ride along through the last few years of this amazing annual event. Each year would become 6 to 8 half-hour episodes, highlighting the trials and tribulations, wonders and delights of building a community-sponsored float.Visit the people it takes to make this all come together. And, see how the tradition is being passed on to the next generation of float builders.