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Murray Journal

Murray neighbors hope float takes flight

Jul 03, 2019 04:39PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Brett Shelley, left, Ron Voorhees, center, and Doug Orton review the progress of the float. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

What happens when you put together two rain barrels, sheet metal roofing, a roof flow mill, a lot of Styrofoam and even more sweat? You get a rocket. At least something that will pass as one on a float in the Murray Independence Day parade. Parade goers will only see the float for a few minutes as it passes by, but Ron Voorhees and his crew have been working on it for over a year.

“Our float’s theme is ‘When Hope Takes Flight, the Journey Begins,’ Voorhees said. He gently pulls the design scheme out of a binder; it depicts a fanciful Jules-Verne-style rocket floating above the clouds, transporting rag doll children and a slew of animals. “No matter how tough things get, we can always soar higher when we work together as friends and neighbors.”

Indeed, the construction of this float has taken a community to put together and will need a lot more help from friends in order to be finished in time for the Murray parade. The float will also participate in the Days of ’47 parade and is being put together by volunteers from the Murray Parkway Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Fortunately, Voorhees has a neighbor who designs floats professionally, Clark Chamberlin. Chamberlin is a designer for Innovative Design Concepts, and some of his work has been seen in the Rose Bowl Parade.  “I wanted something unique. He (Chamberlin) provided me with a couple of designs, and I picked this one out.” That was probably the easiest part of building a float.

Finding a place to put together a float is probably as tough as putting it all together. After all, you can’t have the float outside all the time being rained on, especially during the second wettest spring on record. Voorhees found the perfect spot thanks to Doug Orton. Orton is a businessman who happens to own a body shop and volunteered a large garage to house a behemoth vehicle that looks like a driving box. Atop this platform, the float crafters have been working since March to get the float ready. 

Orton used his business connections to find stacks of Styrofoam from a construction site that ordered too many. Kim McKenna and Debbie Brown cut these large industrial slabs down into white fluffy clouds. Brown, who learned sculpting at BYU, needed a better way to shape the clouds than with a knife. Orton improvised a heated blade by fashioning a bow out of a PVC pipe and a wire, which is connected to an electric power supply that heats it. Brown slices off smaller pieces for McKenna to shape into finer detail with a rasper (an improvised horse brush). Cindy Pearson uses a shorter heated blade to carve chickens that will sit aboard the float.

“The smell of burnt Styrofoam is worse than the sound of cutting it,” assured McKenna.

Finished “clouds” sit in stacks, ready to be assembled. The float car was previously used by another LDS stake, and their float’s “covered wagon” is being cannibalized to hold the rocket ship in place. The float crew plans to reuse as much as possible from the previous float.

“We could repaint the well (from the old float) to look like a barrel,” remarked Brett Shelley. “I also have an old water meter box that will work.” Shelley, who works for Salt Lake City Public Utilities, pitches other ideas to Voorhees and Orton on how to craft what will look like a flying barrel being towed by the rocket; they decide to try the meter box.

The weather is finally being cooperative enough for the float committee, but they are running behind schedule because of it. With 25 days left before the Murray parade, Voorhees is recruiting artists and painters in the neighborhood to come out and help.

Innovation, as well as trial and error, has been a critical ingredient in trying to assemble the float, along with the creativity to go with the whimsical design. “I think the most rewarding thing has been working with all these great people,” Voorhees said.

Murray’s Independence Day parade is, of course, July 4 at 8:30 a.m. The route begins at Fashion Place Mall on State Street, heads north to Vine Street and enters Murray Park at the north entrance. The float will also be on display at the Days of ’47 Float Preview Party at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on July 22 and 23 and at the parade the following day in Salt Lake City.