Just Imagine

Just imagine flying across the nation on Christmas Day. Just imagine 12 nights in Burbank, Calif. Just imagine working six of those days under pressure, on deadline, with no pay. Just imagine being part of the 2012 Rose Parade in Pasadena.

Just imagine what it feels like to see float No. 56 round the magic corner.

“Just Imagine” is the theme for the 123rd Rose Parade, and Conover resident Michael Paysour will be in Pasadena for the third year in a row as a float decorator.

Paysour, 59, is a retired teacher who taught U.S. history and civics at Fred T. Foard High School.

So, how does a retired history teacher, who claims he is not artistic, become a float decorator for the Rose Parade — three years in row?

“It is a Christmas present to myself and in memory of my parents,” Paysour said. “Dad would be so proud of me — working for the church.”

Paysour attends Concordia Lutheran Church in Conover, and is familiar with Lutheran Hour Ministries. LHM is a Christian outreach ministry that provides The Lutheran Hour radio program, daily devotions, help topics and booklets, evangelism training, outreach and more in the Lutheran Church internationally.

“Lutheran Hour Ministries has had a float in the Rose Parade for 62 years, counting this year’s (2012),” Paysour said. “It’s the only religious float in the parade.”

Paysour heard about Petal Pushers, a group of volunteers who decorate five Rose Parade floats each year for Phoenix Decorating. Money earned from decorating the five floats pays for the Lutheran Hour Ministries float.

Paysour decided to join the parade and became one of 4,000 Petal Pushers from across the nation. All of the work is volunteered, and no one is paid.

“I’ve never had to buy a plane ticket out and back,” Paysour said.

“During the last 20 years, I amassed thousands of frequent flyer miles, so I use those.”

Paysour flies to Burbank Christmas Day, one day before decorating begins on Dec. 26, the beginning of six Detail and Decorating Days of two shifts.

“We’re finished on the 31st — we have to be,” Paysour said.

The theme for the 2012 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade is “Just Imagine.”

“The theme for the Lutheran Hour Ministries float is ‘God’s Promise to All,’” Paysour said.

Paysour said volunteers need to follow the theme, but they don’t necessarily need to be artistic.

“I’m not,” he laughed. “I’d never decorated a float before. During the decoration, I’ve found myself in some of the weirdest physical positions — upside down, lying down, every-which-way.”

Paysour said there are 41 floats, plus equestrians and bands. All natural materials and fresh flowers are used.

“The dry materials go down first — seeds, beans and rice, for example,” he said. “Last year, a wall I worked on was nothing but eucalyptus — it looked like it was stuccoed.

“If it doesn’t look right, the staff lets you know — they come around frequently,” he added.

Thousands and thousands of fresh flowers are brought in, and professionals place the flowers on floats.

“The flowers arrive in small vials of water,” Paysour said. “The tournament folks have it down to an art.”

The most difficult part of the six-day decorating marathon is not only the deadline.

“We need to be finished in time for float judging,” Paysour said.

And, yes, Paysour admits he feels a certain amount of pride when the LHM float passes by him.

Last year, I painted silver leaf for hours and hours — it goes on green,” he said. “The next day, when the float went by me in the parade, it shined like chrome. I cheered.”

Paysour buys a $90-ticket for a bleacher seat on the corner of Orange Grove Ave. and Colorado Blvd.

“I call it the magic corner,” he said. “The TV stations set up there, and the judging is done from that location.”

The parade is always on New Year’s Day, but never on a Sunday, in accordance with tradition. This year, the parade will be held Monday, Jan. 2, at 8 a.m. PST.

“I generally get there about 5 a.m.,” he said. “The parade route is 5.5 miles and lasts about 2 1/2 hours.”

After the parade, Paysour spends two to three days in Burbank just “for myself.”

Last year, he went to the Price is Right TV show and the Jay Leno Show.

“I didn’t win the showcase, but I stood in line with and sat with the folks whose daughter won the showcase,” he said.

“By that time, they called me “Uncle Mike,” so I could go onstage with the family. It was great meeting Drew Carey.”

One last visit is made before Paysour heads home.

“Every year I make a pilgrimage,” he said. “Every year I visit Marilyn Monroe.”

But that’s not the real reason he heads to Burbank every Dec. 25. Just imagine.

“I love the camaraderie, being part of the back-behind-the-scenes work and the Christian element,” Paysour said.

“It’s my way of thanking God for blessing me, being good to me. I am fortunate to have my church pray for me. I don’t ask for dollars — this is my gift.”

Want to watch the parade?

The Rose Parade is broadcast live beginning at 11 a.m., EST, on Jan. 2. Broadcast partners include ABC, NBC, HGTV and the Hallmark Channel