By Ryan Patterson
The Sheridan Press
Via Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — Linda Robbins had a cold. She had just returned from a weeklong business trip when all the work and travel caught up to her.
For Robbins, though, the effort was worth a temporary setback. Earlier this month, Robbins, who has owned Annie Greenthumb’s Flowers and Gifts for 35 years, completed her sixth consecutive year participating in the Rose Parade in Southern California.
Robbins was one of 40 members of the American Institute of Floral Designers in charge of helping finish 13 floats over the course of four hectic days. To complete the task, Robbins and others worked more than around the clock, laboring from about 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. to finish everything during the final two days.
“It gets to be grueling,” Robbins said.
This year’s parade marked the 130th time that contraptions filled with thousands of flowers flooded the streets on New Year’s Day before the Rose Bowl college football game.
Robbins was one of two lead designers on her float. A normal day involved taking inventory of the flowers, planning which types of flowers to install first, how to design the floats and directing other workers and volunteers. One day, she had to pop out and install thousands of Birds of Paradise flowers by hand.
“By the end of the day, my thumbs died,” Robbins said.
Robbins’ float won first place this year, taking home the Sweepstakes prize for best overall commercial float. The winner — which incorporated an ostrich surrounded by books — was 31 feet tall and made of more than 30,000 flowers.
All days entailed at least 15 hours of work, so there was zero time for relaxation.
“People say, ‘Oh, did you go out to dinner some place nice for New Year’s Eve?’” Robbins said. “I said, ‘We had In-N-Out Burger in our pajamas on our bed.’ We couldn’t even think about going (out).”
Workers do not receive compensation during their first year, but after Robbins received an invitation to come back for another year, she has received payment for the intense labor. Robbins also was awarded a red jacket this year that denoted more than five years of service toward the parade.
Robbins always watched the Rose Parade growing up and called it one of her bucket list events in which to participate. She revels in being part of the exclusive club and developing relationships with other professionals.
“You get to be part of that family group,” Robbins said. “It’s a thrill to be included.”
Robbins will cross another item off her bucket list in early March. She will serve as an ambassador in the Florists’ Transworld Delivery World Cup in Philadelphia for three days, the first time the U.S. has hosted the prestigious event since 1985.
Robbins said the Rose Parade trip — which lasted from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 — is a stressful time crunch, but she noted the incredibly rewarding experience of seeing the results of her labor during the parade.
Employees at Annie Greenthumb’s also enjoyed viewing the parade on TV and seeing the floats that Robbins designed. The store is closed every year from Christmas to New Year’s Day, aligning with Robbins’ trip.
“We watch the parade and say, ‘We know who did that [float],’” said Pat Anderson, who has worked there for seven years.
Susan Martin has worked at the store for about 14 years and marveled at the parade designers’ ability to go through the exhausting process.
“Just thinking about it wears me out,” Martin said.
Despite the rigorous schedule, when Robbins will receive a call this summer to come back for the seventh straight year, she plans to immediately accept.
“You’ve already forgotten about staying up 27 hours,” Robbins said.
While Robbins may have come down with a cold afterward, the chance to again participate in a childhood dream and work with like-minded people was an opportunity too great to pass.