Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Reed Griffin is Rose Parade Royalty

Float with Reedies

Photo by Dan Schaffer

Six-inches high and stuffed with cotton, a griffin sits atop a few worn books stacked on the cluttered desk of Mike Teskey, director of alumni & parent relations. For years this figurine—a plush model of the mythical creature, half lion, half eagle, which Reed takes as its mascot—had fixed its glassy eye on Mike while he worked, and it must have made an impression, because when he walked into the office of the Portland Rose Festival representative to discuss what Reed's float would look like in the upcoming parade, Mike had the stuffed griffin in his hand.

mack smiling.jpg

Mechanical wizard and construction leader Rob Mack '93. Photo by Patrick Bryan '13

The last time Reed entered a float in the Grand Floral Parade was in 1936. From time to time, alumni would broach the dream of returning to the parade, but like a lot of great ideas, they never got past the broaching stage. Then, at a centennial apple-pressing party in the canyon orchard, Mike struck up a conversation with Jon-Paul Davis '93 and mechanical wizard Rob Mack '93. Rob was the natural choice to spearhead the project; during his Reed days he turned an old Nissan into the infamous Mobile Outdoor Plush Super Upholstered Den (MOSPUD), a mobile beverage-distribution system that graced several Renn Fayres. Rob signed on as Reed's construction leader for the 2012 parade with just one demand: Reed would build the float.

Rob's request may seem strange, but most floats are put together by employees of Sci3.2, the parade company that oversees the Grand Floral Parade. However, Rob was fully confident that Reedies could construct a float worthy of the ages. In April, Rob and his core team, Mike Teskey, Ben Lund '93, Dan Schafer '92, Martha Richards '92, and Lars Fjelstad '92, began to build in earnest.

On a sunny June afternoon, Rob and his team were laboring in a dust-filled warehouse in northwest Portland, fighting through the heavy scent of peat and flowers to put the final touches on the float. The griffin stuck out of the sea of floats—all of which were receiving the Grand Floral Parade's requisite botanical covering—like a pallid postthesis Reedie on the beach. Rob's paint-spattered overalls and booming voice were in stark contrast to the quiet efficiency of the blue-and-white uniforms of the professional float builders as he haggled with administrators over how loud his stereo could be.

Mechanically, the griffin is quite complex: mounted on the chassis of an old Ford Pinto, it was welded out of iron bars and boasts a system of motors in the wings and the head that allow each to rotate independently. There is also a speaker system, wired to play the Muppets' song "Cluck You" on repeat. Covering the float in flowers was grueling work, but the mood in the warehouse was joyous. Like a senior editing a thesis after passing orals, the griffin team would only be done when continuing was no longer an option.

The sky was gray and ominous on the day of the parade, but the mood was sunny among the Portlanders who crowded the sidewalks and intersections along the route. If you were waiting for the Reed float, you had to wait awhile: the griffin was placed near the end of the parade, and the last-minute failure of an engine coil meant that the team had to push the float on the hills. Yet, when it crested the rise of the Burnside Bridge, its eyes bright and its outspread wings glowing in their fresh coat of flowers, the griffin looked positively regal—a stunning metamorphosis of dream to reality.

Editor's note: Reed's float won the "Rose Festival Director's Award" for best depiction of volunteerism!

Tags: alumni, centennial, performing arts, Portland, traditions