Battle Ground afloat in success

All-volunteer effort consistently produces award-winning Rose Festival entries

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoBattle Ground's float won the Rose Festival Court Award (Best example of enthusiasm and teamwork) in 2012.

(/The Columbian)

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Grand Floral Parade

What: The event features 17 all-floral floats, 18 marching bands, 19 equestrian units and many other special entries.

Where: Starts at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 N. Winning St., heads through downtown Portland across the Burnside Bridge, along Southwest Fourth Avenue to Southwest Taylor Street.

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8. The parade will also be televised on Fox 12 from 6 a.m. to noon.

Cost: Reserved indoor and outdoor seating is available from $15-$30, along the parade route is free.

Information: http://rosefestival.org

2012 Clark County winners

Battle Ground Rose Float: Rose Festival Court Award (Best example of enthusiasm and teamwork).

Union High School: Band Sweepstakes (Best band in parade).

Heritage High School: First Place, Out of State Open (100 or more members).

Battle Ground High School: First Place, Out of State Division A (99 members or fewer).

Heritage High School: Caption Award (Band support: cheerleading).

Road closure

Parts of I-5 southbound at the I-205 junction will be closed from 11 tonight through to 5 a.m. Monday due to work on the Salmon Creek Intersection Project. That could cause traffic snarls in Clark County on parade day. For more information, visit Washington State Department of Transportation.

The folks in Battle Ground get an interesting dish when they combine crushed walnuts, parsley, kidney beans, onion seed, buckwheat, millet, safflower and rice.

The recipe creates something called a "parade float" -- which the community has been cooking up for the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade since 1955. On Saturday, those ingredients will be used in the city's "Party Island" float, which plays off the main parade theme of "Portland's Party."

The mixture may sound like some new age health food product, but since the ingredients are also coated in glue, the float probably makes a better feast for the eyes than the palate, said Jackie Lipps, who supervises the float decorations.

"We don't actually want to eat the float," Lipps said. "We also don't want to feed the birds with it."

In the decade or so that she's worked on the Battle Ground Rose Float, which has to be 100 percent organic, Lipps has learned her share of insights about the survivability of the building materials.

One bit of advice: Think twice before using potatoes to make rocks.

"If you put potatoes on your float as cobblestones, they get stinky after a few days," Lipps said. "And grass seed, which we use sometimes, if you leave it for too long it starts to grow -- we've had to go in and trim it."

Moss, on the other hand? That goes everywhere.

"Moss is our friend," Lipps said. "If something needs covering and you don't have anything, oh, stick a piece of moss on it. I can't tell you how many volunteers' yards we've raided at the last minute for that."

Battle Ground's float appears in both the Grand Floral Parade and in Harvest Days, which is a local celebration in July. Because of that, the materials have to last about a month, which can sometimes be challenging.

"Sometimes you get products you haven't tested before, and some work better than others," she said. "We try to keep a list of what works."

Another not-so-friendly product is seaweed, which can give things a nice black color, she said.

"When you put it on it looks great, but if it gets rehydrated, if it rains, it really smells," Lipps said. "And it's not a friendly odor."

Last year, the Battle Ground float won the Rose Festival Court Award, and it typically wins something every year, said Rich Jarvis, a spokesman for the Rose Festival.

"It's always a fantastic tradition that comes out of their community," Jarvis said.

Volunteers start designing the float in October and building it in February. They range in age from 5 to one spry 94-year-old, Lipps said.

"We get people from every age group," she said.

The float is made entirely through volunteer efforts, with the $12,000 to $18,000 in materials coming from fundraisers such as bake sales throughout the year.

That's a bit different than the effort to get a city of Vancouver float back into the parade. The last time the city had a float was 1994, although it used to be an annual occurrence.

A small group of businesspeople tried to relaunch the float this year, but weren't able to come up with the $40,000 to $50,000 needed to have it professionally built.

They did raise about $5,000, though, and are planning to increase their efforts to have a float in the 2014 parade, said Ron Carr, one of those spearheading the effort.

"It's not going to go this year, and I certainly couldn't sign a contract without getting closer to the goal," Carr said. "But we're going to take a new approach and work through the year for a 2014 float."

The reasons that the Vancouver float will cost more are that it doesn't have a chassis, which the Battle Ground float has and reuses each year, and that the organizers want to pay a professional company to build it, rather than using volunteers.

But however it comes together, Lipps said she'd love to see another Clark County float join the fun.

"I think it would be fantastic for them to do that," she said.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com