Arts & Culture
Miniature float making creates magic, muscles, and memories
What started as round-the-block parades using coaster wagons, cute kids and a little ingenuity grew to be a small-town tradition that culminated in one of the most exciting events of the year in Lehi. The Lehi Round-up miniature parade draws thousands to Lehi each 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 started 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 expected to enter 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 involved in creating these miniature masterpieces.
Certain individuals in town became the go-to people in float-making. Barbara Peck remembers the competition was intense, “Everybody strived to build the sweepstakes float. I made manyfloats, and we did win a first-place one year,” she recalled. Paula Davis spoke to the secrecy of the endeavor, “One year a float was built in a garage and the windows and doors were covered to prevent sneak peaks.”
In the 50’s and 60’s images were made of wood as a base, covered with chicken wire and paper mache’, After the base was created, the paper mache’ designs were covered with curled crepe paper. The strips were glued to the figures to add depth, color and detail. Hours upon hours of curling crepe paper made knees sore and pants worn. Many intricate designs could be achieved with the infamous curled crepe paper. In the 70’s, thousands of plastic pom poms replaced the curled crepe paper and became the popular decorating medium. Some of the more elaborate designs had mechanical parts that would make windmills go around, bulls buck, dinosaurs move from right to left, trains climb hills, dogs wag tails, etc. etc.
Besides making the floats, 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 of Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Louey, and Dewey. The three boys never forgave their mothers for making them don these costumes. One suggested that he was scarred for life because of the taunting of his friends as he had to march the parade route looking like a duck. Another boy had to march the entire length of the parade looking like a turtle. He said, “I was OK with the turtle shell, but when I had to wear green girl’s tights, I resisted loudly, but it didn’t matter. My mother made me do it. I didn’t forgive her for years.”
Making miniature floats was a monumental task for many Lehi citizens, mostly mothers, for many, many years. Why did it happen? As a small community, it was a chance to gather together once a year and focus on an event that celebrated families, friends, and fun. When some of Lehi’s old-timers look back at the work and time spent, they do so with nostalgia as they consider the memories created for themselves, their families and the community.
For those making floats this year, they will participate in a selfless effort that will bring joy, satisfaction and community togetherness along with fond memories for the rest of their lives.