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Subject: Big Suprise
Date: 7 Jul 1995 15:27:31 +0200
Organization: RePLaY aND CoMPaNY UnLimited
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Float-building dying out as holiday tradition
San Jose Mercury News
Monday, July 3, 1995
By Sue Hutchison
Randy Wagner and Chip Green are on a mission. They and a squad
from Redwood City's Church of Scientology are building a Fourth
of July float in parishioner Fabio Sanzogni's front yard. It's a
volcano, like the one on the cover of L. Ron Hubbard's
"Dianetics." You may have seen the book at the airport.
"We put a parachute over this frame we made and mounted it on the
truck," Wagner said, as he showed me their creation. "And we have
Hollywood special-effects experts in our church who are going to
make it 'smoke.' Then a big 'Dianetics' book is going to pop out
of the top."
Now that's a float. You're not going to see something like that
in the Rose Bowl parade.
The Scientologists are hoping to help inspire their neighbors to
come back into the float-building fold. Though 120 groups will
march in this year's parade, sponsored by the Peninsula
Celebration Association, there will be only five floats.
BUT REDWOOD CITY is hardly the only place suffering from
float-loss. In fact, it's one of the few Bay Area Fourth of July
parades that has any floats. Somehow, Americans have lost sight
of the importance of gathering with their neighbors on a hot
weekend to spend 48 frenzied hours stuffing red, white and blue
crepe paper through chicken wire. They seem to have forgotten the
spiritual thrill of creating something beautifully corny and
Sure, we hear a lot about getting back to "traditional family
values," but do you see Phil Gramm or Bob Dole sweating in their
driveways with their wives, trying to mount a papier-mache' Uncle
Sam on top of a pickup truck covered in Kleenex?
I suspect the average American fourth-grader has seen floats only
on television. But when I was 7, I already was a Fourth of July
float veteran. My neighborhood won the blue ribbon in float
building. Every kid, banker, housewife, engineer and retiree on
our block joined in. Riding on our "Pioneer to the Moon" float is
my earliest patriotic memory. (Even though I threw up on the
pioneer next to me.)
Sharon Hom, veteran Redwood City float-builder and chairwoman of
this year's PCA parade, jump-started some float action earlier
this year when she gave a "parade clinic" for residents.
LUCKILY, THERE IS still plenty of local affection for the Redwood
City parade. That may be enough to rekindle the float-building
spirit that made it great. "We're parade nuts," Hom said proudly.
Sally Morrison, known as "the PCA queen," has been helping launch
the celebration since 1968. Both were on hand a few years ago to
see a couple get married in a white stretch limousine on the
marching route, perhaps the parade's most unique float.
And tomorrow, as the Dianetics volcano lines up on the parade
route at 10:30 a.m. by the corner of Brewster and Arguello, it
may ironically take its place in history as the float that helped
spark the Redwood City parade renaissance. What could be a more
unusual tribute to Yankee ingenuity than this invention by
Scientologists with a dream?
"We have great sound equipment so it will make very realistic
noise," Wagner said, surveying his creation with the same
maniacal gleam in his eye my father had 27 years ago as he helped
engineer "Pioneer to the Moon."
"And next year we'll get a fire permit so it can have lava
pouring down the sides!"