ELDON — If you caught the Tournament of Roses parade, then you probably saw some Wapello County handiwork: It happened by chance.
Pie maker and American Gothic House resident Beth Howard is visiting her parents in Southern California. She ran into Dave Pittman, originally from the Cedar Rapids area. He was in California because he designs floats for the Rose Bowl parade; he's done 100 so far.
"Dave invited me to help decorate the parade floats," Howard said. "I was posting pictures on Facebook, [and] Diana Harness of Eldon made a comment on one of my posts that she was in the area. So I invited her to the float decorating area ... across the street from the Rose Bowl for a ... tour from Dave the designer."
Harness, who works at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, her husband Don and her sister hurried from the coast south of Los Angeles to Pasadena.
"There were pretty large crowds," Don said. "We finally found a place to park, [but] when we found the [pavilion], there was a big line of people waiting to pay for a tour; they'd show you the outside of the [float] building. Beth saw us and talked to the security guard, who opened the gate for us, let us right in."
The bad news? "Dave was too busy to give them a tour," said Howard.
The good news? He gave them a rare opportunity instead.
"He put them to work," said Howard.
"Up to that point, we thought we were just going to look at some floats," Don said.
As the designer walked around the pavilion looking for a float that needed work (out of about 50 floats, he designed nine), the Wapello County folks got to see nearly all the floats they would have seen on television.
"We always watch the parade, but to see the floats up close was just beautiful," said Diana, who added she had dreamed of one day experiencing the parade. "And to work on them, that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."