Floats aren’t taken lightly at Mum Fest

Every year, the annual Chrysanthemum Festival brings rides, food, entertainment, crafts, and community feel all in one city. One of the main attractions is the parade, which features between 20 and 30 floats on average, marching bands, dance schools, public service departments, military representatives and more, filling the streets of Bristol with bystanders lining up on the side of the roads to watch.
A lot of time and energy is spent on the entire festival, including the parade— not just from the Mum Festival Committee, but also the organizations, churches and schools who put months of work into creating the best float they can.
(The Mum Festival parade is Sept. 22.)
“So much time and money is spent on these floats,” said Elliot Nelson, this year’s chair of the 52nd Annual Mum Festival, “which is why we hire three professional judges.”
He said, due the effort that goes into each float, the committee “has always felt we need to do this the right way, the professional way.”
Last year, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School won the Parade Marshal/Hometown Hero’s Choice Award, which Larry Beaudoin, who is part of the planning committee, said is “a very prestigious award during the Mum Festival parade.”
Beaudoin is a member of the committee, at Immanuel Lutheran Church that brainstorms, plans, and builds a float for each parade. He said, while it is a stressful task, it’s “a lot of fun too.” It’s another way for the parishioners involved to work together as a team.
This year’s theme of the annual festival is “Mum Festival It’s Time To Bloom.” Typically, the floats are decorated based on that theme.
“Being a religious organization, we try to integrate the two” both the theme and a spiritual aspect,” Beaudoin said. “It is important we display ourselves as participants and members of the Bristol community and also the body of Christ.”
Beaudoin is a graphic and web designer, so once the committee has an idea in place, he constructs a
rendering before everything is put together. He said the past floats at Immanuel Lutheran have included the children of the parish and school. The floats also offered multiple sensory aspects. And it was all incorporated on a 29 foot trailer.
“Our trailer is so big we always have to ‘think big’ in terms of design,” he said, adding that the float makers always have to consider many factors such as paint, wood, cardboard, how secure items are, and weather.
“The key to success is that you start with an idea that everyone is on board with, and with multiple hands and good organization (you will have a great product),” Beaudoin said.
Before the parade begins, Nelson said three professional judges, who are hired solely for this purpose, walk around and check out all of the floats. They score each one and add their scores together to pick winners.
There are three separate awards for the parade floats as well – the Mayor’s Award, Parade Marshal/Hometown Hero’s Choice Award, and the Mum Festival Chairmen’s Award.“Those three are awarded first,” so that the other floats still have a chance to win, Nelson said.
This year, Nelson will get to pick the Mum Festival Chairmen’s Award, and said when he is judging he looks at the originality, the use of mums, cleanliness and how the float incorporates the theme. The theme for each festival is chosen by the Mum Festival Committee earlier in the year, and the parade float participants are provided with that information so they can get started on ideas.
Caroline Martin is head of the float committee this year for the Bristol Elks, and she said the goal is to “get our presence out there during the parade and show the community what we do.”
She said last year was the first year she worked on the Elks float for the parade, and said it was “a really great experience.”
The group, she said, puts a concept together and everyone does their part in putting the float together. She said the group likes to showcase what kinds of contributions the Elks make to the local community, like scholarships, reading and book programs, drug and alcohol programs for kids, and more.
“It is our time to bring awareness to the community about what we do as an organization,” Martin added.
For information on the Mum Festival schedule, visit www.bristolmumfestival.org. The parade will be held on Sunday, Sept. 22, starting at 1:30 p.m. The entire festival kicks off on Friday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. with the Crowning of Miss Mum and Junior Miss Mum at Bristol Central High School.