Pasadena, Calif. - Melissa Carter has watched the Tournament of Roses Rose Parade every year since she was a kid tuning in with her mom. This year, she'll be part of the iconic event.
"I can't believe I'm here," the longtime Atlanta broadcaster said Saturday morning, during her shift at the barn where floats are being decorated. A 15-year kidney transplant survivor who established the Melissa Carter Transplant Fund to help other patients, she'll be part of the Donate Life float. The event starts at 11 A.M. EST on Monday.
"I vowed to live my life more fully because I'd been sick so long," she said. "Being here is a promise I made to myself."
The Piedmont Transplant Institute is her event sponsor, and she's hoping her participation will encourage viewers to register as organ donors. She also hopes fans will take a moment to appreciate the eco friendliness of the Rose Parade. The boughs at the bottom of the Donate Life float are recycled from recently decommissioned Christmas tree, designs are created using seeds, not paint, and the plastic water vials that keep each bloom fresh will be used again. Parade flora becomes potpourri or compost, said Jan Sandoval, a 2007 float rider who is helping decorate this year.
"Everything is organic," he said.
"Kaiser has been an important partner in Georgia Organics," said Rolls, who has championed farm-to-table programs in Georgia public school cafeterias and other healthy initiatives.
"Everyone has been asking, 'Are you going to be dressed as a broccoli spear?' We're all going to be dressed as farmers and gardeners which is what I look like anyway," she said. "I've been practicing my wave."
Because preparations start well in advance, neither she nor Rolls knew the University of Georgia would be playing in the Rose Bowl when they made plans to participate in the parade. It's been around longer than the annual football contest, though. The city of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club dreamed up the event in 1890 as a way of luring frostbitten east coast residents to visit.
“In New York, people are buried in snow,” Professor Charles F. Holder declared at a Club meeting, according to tournament history. “Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”