Inyo National Forest workers acknowledged for Rose Parade float
What did Smokey Bear get for his 75th birthday?A float in the Rose Parade.
On February 5th, the Inyo National Forest Service informed the Inyo Board of Supervisors that three of their employees and one volunteer had participated in the Rose Parade on January 1st.
Inyo National Forest (INF) employees Levi Ray, Angel Avila, Lee Roeser, and his wife Jen built the float and rode it at the parade. Lee Roeser is a forest packer. Levi Ray works prevention on the Mt. Whitney District and Angela Avila works at the Bishop Inyo National Forest. Jen works at the McGee Creek Pack Station in Crowley.
Heading down the parade route “with over 700,000 people—they were singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ screaming, and shouting out ‘only you can prevent forest fires,” Jen said.
The INF’s float had a total of 35 people, 19 mules and two spare mules.
It all started a year and a half ago, Lee Roeser said. National Forest higher-ups from from Washington, D.C. called and wanted to know about getting a float in the parade.
“We had experience with that at one time,” he said.
Some of the participants spent most of the month of December building the framework and a few people from the Forest Service came to help decorate. The building of the wagon and float took four weeks. On December 31, the day before the parade, they spent two hours assembling the float, about six hours to decorate. By 8 p.m., the float was finished.
Jen Roeser said that, “everything had to be a natural fiber.” The Smokey Bear emblem, “was covered in natural flax seed, grass seed, and rock salt,” Levi Ray said. As for the Forest Service sign, Ray said he is unaware of what natural fiber it was made of.
During the Rose Parade, Lee Roeser said he was “one of the packers, leading the string of mules, as well as in the Equest Fest Event,” he said.
Levi Ray said that he was involved in the rebuilding of the wagon that was used for the float.
“We put new wood on it, built skirting to go around the outside to hang the decorations for the float,” Ray said. “I was one of the firefighter’s that was walking in the parade with the entry.”
Ray said that he did a demonstration on packing the mules, and “how we pack on fires, [and] when we’re supporting firefighters with the pack strings.”
Jen worked with, “the mules, both with transportation and preparing them, and on the wagon with the team of mules that pulled the float with Smokey,” she said.
Jen said that she was very fortunate, “to participate with an awesome group of people, with packers, with firefighters—you’re with the best of the best,” she said. Jen said that having Smokey in the float, “was really an inspiration, because Smokey is probably one of the most well-known figures there is.”
The Smokey Bear Campaign is run by the Ad Council, an advertising non-profi specializing in public service announcements. Smokey Bear is the longest running public service campaign in US history. It was started in 1944.
Angel Avila was humbled by the ride through Pasadena.
“I’ve never really been in something that big, besides the Mule Days parade. It was very exciting.”
The parade took place during the federal government’s shutdown, leaving many INF employees furloughed.
Public Affairs Officer of the Inyo National Forest Deb Schweizer said, “Some employees were furloughed, some, like law enforcement and fire, worked but did not get pay until appropriations were passed, and some worked as needed or on call, also without pay until appropriations passed,” she said.
One of the reasons the three employees and volunteer were able to attend the Rose Parade is because of the “National Forest Foundation (NFF) and the Ad Council, who sponsored the event. “It was not paid from federal appropriations,” Schweizer said.
During the parade, Smokey Bear “got a louder fanfare than any of the other entries,” Lee Roeser said.