Crafting Miniature Floats Creates Magic, Muscles, and Memories

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What started as parades around the block using roller coaster wagons, cute kids and a bit of ingenuity has become a small town tradition that has culminated in one of the most exciting events of the year in Lehi. The Lehi Round-up Miniature Parade draws thousands of people to Lehi every June to enjoy the creativity and work of hundreds of volunteer float-makers.

Miniature floats can be a daunting task assigned to many who have no idea how to create one. For years, the planning and execution of miniature floats began soon after the theme for the traditional Round-up parade was announced. Lehi wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were to ride in a float in the parade, as were local businesses and organizations. Committees were formed and the work began. Not just weeks, but months of work would be required to create these miniature masterpieces.

Some people in the city have become the go-to for making floats. Barbara Peck remembers that the competition was intense: “Everyone tried hard to build the float for the draw. I did a lot of floats and we won a first place one year,” she recalls. Paula Davis spoke of the company secret, “One year a float was built in a garage and the windows and doors were covered to prevent previews.”

In the 1950s and 60s, pictures were made of wood as the base, covered with chicken wire and papier-mâché. After the base was created, the papier-mâché designs were covered with rolled-up crepe paper. The strips have been glued to the figures to add depth, color and detail. Hours and hours of looped crepe paper made the knees sore and the pants worn. Many intricate designs could be made with the infamous rolled crepe paper. In the 1970s, thousands of plastic pom poms replaced curly crepe paper and became the popular decoration medium. Some of the more elaborate designs had mechanical parts that would spin windmills, bulls rear up, dinosaurs move right and left, trains climb hills, dogs wag their tails, and more. etc

Besides making the floats, the costumes had to be designed and sewn. If you wanted to be a float designer, you almost had to be a seamstress. One year, three 9-year-old boys were forced to wear costumes by Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Louey and Dewey. The three boys have never forgiven their mothers for making them wear these costumes. One suggested he was scarred for life because of the taunts of his friends as he had to walk the parade route looking like a duck. Another boy had to walk the length of the parade looking like a turtle. He said: “I was ok with the turtle shell, but when I had to wear girls green tights I loudly resisted, but it didn’t matter. My mom made me do it. I haven’t forgiven him for years.

The construction of miniature chariots was a monumental task for many citizens of Lehi, mostly mothers, for many, many years. Why did this happen? As a small community, it was a chance to come together once a year and focus on an event that celebrated families, friends and fun. When some of Lehi’s elders look back on work and times past, they do so with nostalgia, thinking of the memories created for themselves, their families, and the community.

For those who build floats this year, they will be participating in a selfless effort that will bring joy, satisfaction and community unity as well as fond memories for the rest of their lives.

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