Most of us watched the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day sitting in front of our televisions, but two South Dakota couples enjoyed the famous parade from a unique perspective—sitting on one of the 39 flower-decked floats as it traveled the 5.5-mile parade route down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California.
Phil and Barb Hamburger, fourth generation farmers from Seneca, South Dakota, who attend Grace Bible Church in Gettysburg, South Dakota, and Lud and Julie Hohm, farmers from Yale, South Dakota, who attend Bethel MB Church, Yale, were among the 100 farm family members on the “Salute to Farmers” float, setting a record for the most riders on a single float in Rose Parade history. The farm float also received the Wrigley Legacy Award for most outstanding display of floral presentation, float design and entertainment.
The Rose Parade is known as a spectacle of bands, equestrian entries and commercial and non-commercial floats, along with millions of live plants and flowers. The “Salute to Farmers” float, one of only 18 commercial floats in the parade, was sponsored by AgPhD of Baltic, South Dakota, a nationally broadcast radio and TV series focusing on farm topics.
On the 20th anniversary of their company, Ag PhD owners and co-hosts Brian and Darren Hefty wanted to recognize farmers on the public stage, and the theme of this year’s parade, “Making a Difference,” gave them the opportunity to do so.
The Heftys feel that no one makes a bigger difference than farmers who feed not only their own families, but millions of others.
“What better way to show that modern agriculture is still about great people than to have 100 amazing farmers from across the country, and especially South Dakota, riding on the float?” said Brian Hefty, in an interview with Nebraska Rural Radio Association.
“I do consider it to be a very special privilege to have been able to represent farmers who supply the food for the whole world,” Hamburger says.
The Hamburgers are one of the families featured on the AgPhD website as farmers riding on the float who are making a difference as they partner with AgPhD in innovative farming practices.
“Barb and I consider it a great honor to have been able to ride on this float,” Hamburger says in an email interview. “The thrill of being part of something so unique and special is hard to describe in words. To smile and wave at hundreds of thousands of people, watching them cheer you on, is a feeling that’s hard to describe. You smile and wave and soak in the moment for three hours straight nonstop. This was truly a special experience that we will never forget.”
Lud Hohm had a similar reaction, saying the experience was even better than he anticipated.
“Our shoulders are still sore from waving for over five miles,” says Hohm, in an email to the CL at the end of last week. “Imagine smiling for over three hours straight. The crowds really seemed happy and loved our float. Many thanked us for being farmers. We felt honored to be part of the salute to the American farmer.”
When Hohm, who does business with Hefty Seed Company, also owned by the Hefty family, was given the choice of coming to Pasadena to either ride on the float or to watch the parade from the stands, he and his wife decided to take the ride and to also help decorate the float prior to the parade.
The AgPhD float, 110 feet long, 18 feet wide and over 30 feet high at its peak, included a tractor in the front of the float, a combine mid-float and two giant United States flags at the rear. Mini-fields of crops that are grown in South Dakota were also featured.
While the float was created by Artistic Entertainment Services, one of only a few float-building companies, AgPhD invited farmers and others from South Dakota to help decorate their float.
On Dec. 30, 2017, the Hohms and other volunteers worked in a large facility where four other floats were also being assembled. Rose Parade rules require that “every inch of the float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds, or bark,” according to tournamentofroses.com. Because of the perishable nature of the materials, the final stages of decorating do not occur until the days immediately after Christmas.
The AgPhD float incorporated seed from each of the 50 states.
“It was simply amazing how many different types of seeds and flowers were used,” says Hohm. “For example, the tires on the tractor and combine were covered in black onion seed and seaweed. The design of the whole float was so special because of how it represented agriculture.
“Words can hardly explain how fascinating it was to help,” says Hohm. “I was surprised at the lack of stress present even though thousands of flowers and other organic materials needed to be applied before Dec. 31 in the morning. That was when the Rose Bowl officials judged our float.”
Julie Hohm says, “It was amazing to see all of the detail work that goes into making the floats, and it was fun to work alongside and visit with all different ages of people who volunteered. For some, as for us, it was their first time. For others, they’ve been volunteering for years from many different parts of the U.S.”
Lud Hohm recalls talking around the table as a dozen volunteers spent several hours putting very sticky glue on the back of silver leaves. The South Dakota couple shared about leading “The Art of Marriage,” marriage curriculum developed by Family Life, in their Sunday school class and learned that one young woman sitting at the table sang in her church’s worship team and that her husband had recently spoken at a men’s retreat.
The Hohm’s made the most of their Tournament of Roses experience and attended the afternoon Rose Bowl Game, relishing the warm weather while family and friends in South Dakota endured record-setting cold temperatures. Wind chill reports around the state early New Year’s Day were in the minus 30s, minus 40s and even minus 50s.
“We did not have much trouble enjoying the 60- to 80-degree weather, especially since it was very cold at home,” Lud says.
With files from KELOLAND TV and Nebraska Rural Radio Association