DES MOINES, IA (AP)
Laurel Hollopeter has loved the lavish flower-trimmed floats of the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena ever since he was a young boy watching the spectacle on television from a farm in eastern Iowa.
Today Hollopeter, 53, is an experienced Iowa-based floral designer who will work on decorating some of those very floats for the 2014 New Year's Day parade. He headed to California on Dec. 26, where he spent several days working as a paid floral designer for Fiesta Parade Floats, a company that created 13 floats for the event held the morning before the Rose Bowl.
"It's a dream come true for any floral designer," said Hollopeter, the floral manager for a Hy-Vee supermarket in Iowa City.
Hollopeter has been working in the floral business for 35 years. In addition to his work at Hy-Vee, he does weddings and events and is one of the designers who helps decorate the governor's mansion, Terrace Hill, for the holidays. He is set to be president of the Iowa Florists' Association next year.
"I probably got started from my grandmother. She did a lot of gardening," said Hollopeter, who lives in Victor. "This is my favorite time of year. I could do Christmas 365 days a year."
He practically does, keeping some Christmas trees up in his house year-round.
Hollopeter first volunteered for Fiesta Parade Floats in 2007 before getting a paid position the following year. He has worked for them almost every year since then, executing the elaborate floral designs that go on the floats for different companies.
"You know what's going on in the parade before the parade happens," said Hollopeter, who, in 2011, worked on a prize-winning float for the Dole Food Company that featured tropical flowers and a volcano. This year he helped decorate floats for health care company Kaiser Permanente and Underground Service Alert, an organization that checks for utility lines before digging or excavation.
Beverly Stansbury, project manager for Fiesta, said Hollopeter is one of 23 paid floral designers who arrived in the days before the parade to carry out a head designer's vision for the floats. Fiesta, based in Irwindale, CA, is one of several companies that builds parade floats.
Stansbury said the work requires top florists, given the complex designs and scale of the projects. Each float holds between 20,000 and 40,000 pounds of flowers.
"We're not doing little arrangements you send to a hospital. Some of these arrangements are so heavy we have to lift them with a fork lift if they're done off the float," Stansbury said. "These designers that come in, they're world quality designers."