Today I woke up and smelled the roses … literally.
Here in Pasadena, Calif., to cover today's 118th Tournament of Roses Parade for ABC, I've been around these fragrant flowers morning, noon and night over the last five days.
Have my senses tired of this abundant aroma? Not one bit. It has actually been a breath of fresh air, since the oxygen I inhale on a daily basis in New York City doesn't smell nearly as nice.
Now, I must admit that initially, the idea of being assigned to a parade sounded about as exciting as covering one of President Bush's news conferences. Think about it -- one grand marshal followed by a host of colorful characters, each tooting their horns and marching to the beat of their own drum.
But I knew this extravaganza would be unique the moment I got an up-close look at the floats themselves. We were able to take a behind-the-scenes tour to see how these pieces of art were actually constructed.
At each stop, we witnessed hundreds of volunteers from across the country working feverishly on each float, gluing every last petal into place as the clock ticked down. The timing of what to place where, and when, was formulaic, so the flowers wouldn't wilt away and die.
One float is blanketed by 7 million of them. Worth noting is that each item covering the floats must be organic. So in addition to flowers, edibles such as apricots, acorns, seaweed and coconut are among the materials used to decorate.
Co-hosting this year's extravaganza is Ricardo Chavira, who plays Carlos Solis on "Desperate Housewives," and Chandra Wilson, better known as Dr. Miranda Bailey, on "Grey's Anatomy." Both are newcomers to the parade scene, and as we toured the barns, they, too, were in awe of the craftsmanship, as well as the commitment it took to complete these massive projects.
"It's just amazing," Wilson said.
What is also amazing is not just the efforts of the volunteers, but the passion of the spectators, as well. By 6 p.m. PT on Sunday, hundreds of people lined the parade route, ready to camp out to secure a prime viewing area.
"I'm not even going to sleep tonight," proclaimed 27-year-old Arlene Empinado, who was layered in three sweaters and two sets of socks. "You have to do this at least once in your life."
"You don't get the same experience on TV," added 41-year-old Sherry Leetch, who was armed with an array of sugary pixie sticks and energy drinks to get her through the night. By morning, 100,000 fans are expected. They'll watch as 23 equestrian units, 22 marching bands, and 45 floats pass them by.
Among the most impressive presentations will certainly be the "Star Wars" spectacular. This year's grand marshal is none other than George Lucas, the mastermind behind the series of hit sci-fi films.
A one-of-a-kind assembly of 200 "Star Wars" storm troopers, who have gathered from 22 different countries, will be the centerpiece of it all. They will march the five-mile parade route in precise formation, led by Mark Fordham of Utah, who will be dressed in a 40-pound costume as Darth Vader.
"We are just ecstatic to be here," Fordham said, while taking a break from practice, where vocal drill sergeants taught them the fine art of the march.
May the force be with them -- and with all of you -- as we ring in 2007.