Of roses, hairspray, glitter and early mornings

This past weekend, the annual Rose Parade took place in my beloved city of roses, Portland.

Whether or not you like parades or you mock them, the Grand Floral Rose Parade is an experience no one can easily forget—especially as a participant.

Waaay back in 2005, I was crowned Miss Teen Rodeo Washington and one of my main priorities was riding in the Grand Floral Rose Parade. It was a chance to promote my organization to millions of television viewers and thousands of pedestrians along the parade route.

Preparations begin months in advance and escalate days before. Only live roses are allowed in the parade. All tack must be cleaned, polished, and polished again.

The day of the parade begins at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. (depending on how long your hair needs to curl.) When in doubt, use more hairspray for that fluffy rodeo queen hair. 😉

All horse entries are staged under the roaring I5 freeway, which does little to help the nerves of the horses and riders. Brushing horses, painting hooves black, setting up floral arrangements and making sure each piece is in place takes a few hours and the judging commences.

Horse entries are judged on overall appearance, details, alignment with the parade theme, and attitude of the horse and rider.

After the judges are finished, the waiting begins. Depending on your placement in the lineup, you could wait for three or four hours to even enter the parade route. The Rose Parade travels through the Memorial Coliseum, over a steel bridge and several light rail tracks (which are electrified, of course.) It is a wild adventure.

Once you enter the parade route, you’re in for an hour of walking, pausing, waving and smiling. It wasn’t hard to keep smiling—the adorable little faces of children along the street kept  me going.

By the end, I was utterly exhausted. It was around 3 p.m. before I dismounted and attended the awards ceremony (my horse, Zip & I won third in our category!)

God bless my parents and helpers that day—I know they have much different memories than I do. But it was unforgettable. I’d come back years later and assist a local fair court with their Rose Parade experience and I hope they remember it as fondly as I do.

What experience will you never forget? 

More about Nicole

Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks