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The 129th Rose Parade presented by Honda, under the theme "Making a Difference," took place Jan. 1, 2018, and featured nearly 90 spirited marching bands from throughout the nation, high-stepping equestrian units, and majestic floral floats. One of the parade's mainstays—the Lutheran Hour Ministries float—has been a Tournament of Roses perennial for 68 years and continues as the only Christian-themed float in the parade.

This year's LHM float, under the theme "Bringing Christ to the Nations," featured a boat with Jesus controlling the rudder, steering and directing His followers from many daily walks of life to use their skills and talents to make a difference in the lives of others. Riders featured a variety of individuals who portray "making a difference," including a comfort dog and handler, a Sunday school teacher and child, leaders of a food bank, a medical professional, and a Lutheran pastor.

Around 5,000 volunteers travel from all over the country to gather in Pasadena, Calif., as Petal Pushers® each year. These volunteers spend the week between Christmas and New Year's attaching thousands of roses, carnations, lilies, mums and other flowers, as well as natural materials such as seeds, coffee beans and leaves, to create the majestic beauty and splendor of the LHM float and up to nine others that rode down Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard.

Lorri Hackett, Lutheran Hour Ministries' associate director of public affairs, traveled to Pasadena this past December and got a behind-the-scenes look at how the thousands of dedicated Petal Pushers volunteers get the immense job done before parade day. Here is Lorri's firsthand account of her experience helping decorate as well as serving as one of the riders on the LHM float during the parade.

"The first thing that hit me when I walked into the warehouse was the enormity of the task at hand. Seeing the skeleton floats with less than a week before the parade and their massive structures looming among the smell of flowers — amazing. Already working diligently were many volunteers completing detail work applying tiny seeds under leaves and drawing pictures that looked like photographs using toothpicks and spices... I was stunned to find out that shifts for the Petal Pushers run for eight hours at a time — long days with lots of work to be done. Yet as I was able to interview the volunteers I was overwhelmed with the sense of joy they had. For many this was a bucket list item — planned for many years; for others it was fulfillment of a childhood dream as they had watched the parade on television each year. For others it was the opportunity to witness as they shared their faith as they worked side-by-side for days carrying out their tasks. No matter what brought them together it was clear they all had the same end goal — to be part of creating the magic that would roll down Colorado Blvd on January 1st. I was honored to get to place the flowers on the cross on the front of the LHM float. Never having "petal-pushed" before I was a bit nervous handling the tiny button mums. But I had an excellent teacher in Jennifer Madsen to help me complete the task.

"Fast forward to parade day. I was excitedly nervous as we made our way to the float staging area at 5 a.m. The excitement was palpable as many people took the time to check out each of the floats as we waited for the parade to begin. I was completely unprepared for the reaction of the crowd to seeing Jesus on the float. Children and adults alike were quick to wave and yell 'Jesus.' Several groups held up signs rating the floats and I was pleased to see that the LHM float with Jesus on board scored a perfect 10. In a world that seems to be ever more filled with violence and hatred, it was wonderful to have this opportunity to see people coming together for a common purpose and celebrating the joy that comes with knowing Jesus. In that moment I knew what a true testimony the float and all of the work that went into it truly was. An overwhelming opportunity to share the message of Christ with a world that desperately needs to hear it."

In addition to more than one million people along the parade route, the annual parade is watched live on television by millions of people around the world.

To learn more about the Petal Pushers and their volunteer opportunities, visit

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