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FIRST PERSON - The Real Scoop: It's A Dirty Job But This Producer Is Happy To Do It

Posted By Ralph Winter, Wednesday, January 22, 2020

One of the greatest volunteer jobs I’ve ever had happens every January 1 at the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

I pick up horse manure for three hours. Yes, I’m a pooper scooper.

It all started when I was asked by the local high school baseball team to help raise money for their uniforms. In exchange for providing volunteer workers for the parade, the school is gifted a number of Rose Bowl seats, which they can sell or use. The coveted seats can bring in thousands of dollars in donations and make a big difference for the team. Skeptical at first, I gave it one year and loved it. In my regular job, as is the case for most producers, I find myself picking up sh*t every day. But on this job, one day a year, I get applause. And gratitude.

About 65 of us gather at 4 a.m. in Pasadena for breakfast at the Rose Parade headquarters while thousands of people check out the floats lined up on Orange Grove Boulevard. Around 5:30 a.m. we suit up and gather to review instructions and discuss how to solve problems before heading to the parade route for the 8 a.m. start.

We usually work in teams of three, each with a flat shovel, a barrel with a liner and a push broom. Pretty obvious how these all work together. We have designated drop-off points should our barrels get full, but that hasn’t happened on my trips yet.

 PGA member and pooper scooper, Ralph Winter (right)
with fellow scooper Matt Shupper
 

The circus of humanity comes to these events, including protestors and wannabe evangelists all in full attire and with bull horns. It’s pretty crazy how so many different people gravitate to this yearly spectacle.  

As a producer, it is interesting to find myself on the other side—following what someone else has produced. And it’s always fascinating putting myself in the shoes of those executing someone else’s carefully laid plans and just trying to make it work.

There are about 18 to 20 equestrian teams, each with at least six horses, but sometimes up to 20 in a group. It’s surprising to see so many horses in one place and we marvel at their size. They really are magnificent creatures.

By the numbers—it’s a 6.5-mile route down the center of Colorado Boulevard, takes about 3 hours for the slow-moving floats, while 1 million people enjoy the parade.

The work can begin right away or come in waves. Everyone knows the pooper scoopers, and everyone cheers, especially when we do our job. Kids are fond of pointing out any material we have might have missed or just make faces at the stink of what we are doing. We used to carry a water bottle labeled “perfume” which we squirted after sweeping up. Seems unnecessary these past few years. Or maybe the organizers think it is one less thing to carry. It feels great when the crowds cheer us on as if we are the most important people there. And in some ways we are–what a mess it would be without us, with each passing troupe or equestrian group adding to the mess. Unthinkable!

Now, as a local resident, I am always shocked at how many people I know along the way and how many familiar faces shout out my name. Sometimes I wear a baseball cap from Cal Berkeley, my alma mater, and an incredible number of parade watchers yell the school cheer “Go Bears!” as I pass by.

The parade ends at the high school, where we separate from the equestrian teams and head to the final gathering area of horse trailers and gear. That is where our reward awaits—the In-N-Out Burger truck ready to feed our hungry yet happy crew.


-If you have a passion, side job or venture outside of producing, we'd like to highlight your accomplishment. Send an email with the topic "First Person" to producedbymag@producersguild.org


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