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How to make a strawberry float without using ice cream

Tamie Meck

Creating a prize-winning float takes planning and teamwork.Just ask the folks from Valley View Hospital. They have entered numerous winning floats over the years, and took first place in the 105th annual Strawberry Days Parade in the nonprofit category.”It’s good for team-building,” said Jeanette Refior, one of this year’s float planners. Refior is the director of the lab at VVH. In keeping with this year’s Strawberry Days theme of “Hooray for the Red, White & Blue,” the float was decorated red, white and blue from front to back. It needed to look its best since it carried this year’s Grand Marshals, including representatives from most of the agencies that responded to the emergency within the first 24 hours of the Coal Seam Fire.On the sides of the float were banners proclaiming, “Hooray for our heroes.”Planning for the float started several weeks ago, said Refior.Use of flatbed and a semi truck were secured. Tools and equipment, such as staple guns, saws, hot glue guns and a generator had to be collected. And decorations had to be ordered.The team used prom catalogs for ordering much of their supplies. This year, said Refior, decorations were ordered just two weeks before construction began. That’s not good planning, she said. It doesn’t leave enough time for exchanges.Fortunately, everything worked right into the scheme of the float.Construction started Wednesday evening. The plans called for some “really big decorations,” said Refior, including a three-dimensional star that stood almost 13 feet tall. That created potential problems. “We didn’t know if they’d fit under the traffic lines,” she said. Working in teams, VVH staff members volunteered their time to build and decorate the float, hook up a sound system, and get the float from above the hospital, where it was constructed, to the parade staging area along Colorado Avenue and Eighth Street early Saturday morning.Last minute touches were applied to the float, including about 1,000 red, white and blue balloons filled with helium and added to the decorations. Despite all the panic in the days and hours before the parade, “It usually just all falls into place,” said Refior.Riding on this year’s float were Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri, representing more than 25 law enforcement agencies that first responded to the fire; Dee Lehman, a ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, and her canine ranger, Gretta; Corporal Ron Madsen, of the Colorado State Patrol; Kay Lynn Carlton, a band member with the Colorado National Guard; Dr. Kurt Papenfus, an emergency room doctor at VVH; a member of the American Red Cross; emergency room nurses Nancy Frizell and Vicki Smith; Darryl Queen, battalion chief with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department; Hal Coombs, of the U. S. Forest Service; Jim Mason, who represented the many private citizens who helped fight the fire and evacuate neighborhoods; and Bill Kight, safety officer, representing all firefighters, particularly those from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Team.The Glenwood Springs Police Department, Emergency Medical Services, and Colorado Division of Wildlife were unable to spare any personnel to ride on the float, but were also instrumental in fighting the fire.When the parade ended, the float was returned to the hospital, where it was dismantled. Some of the materials will be recycled and used in the Silt Heyday Parade by the newly opened Silt Medical Center. Refior said she didn’t have an exact count of the volunteers (dozens), the hours (hundreds), or the exact cost (a lot) that go into building the float.What matters, said Refior, is that the project brings people together. It lets people who don’t know each other get acquainted, and helps co-workers relate to each other on a different level and get to know each other outside the often intense setting of the hospital. “We’re doing something fun together,” said Refior, “and no patients are involved.”


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