For three days last week, American Legion Past National Commander Dan Dellinger spent hours helping decorate the American Legion Family float that will participate in Jan. 1’s Tournament of Roses Parade.
Seeing the finished product travel down the Rose Parade route will elicit a strong emotion in Dellinger.
“Great pride in our organization, our 100 years of existence, what we’ve done, ‘Still Serving America,’” Dellinger said. “I think that phrase on our float says it all. It just gives me goosebumps (thinking of) the millions of people that watch that parade, knowing about who we are and what we do. That design really brings that about.”
Dellinger and his wife, Margaret, joined dozens of others in decorating the float, which was constructed by Phoenix Decorating Company. American Legion Family members worked alongside American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary youth program participants and other volunteers to put the finishing touches on the float.
Watching the float transform from what was basically its framework to where it is now “is just phenomenal,” Dellinger said. “The professionalism of Phoenix Decorating, the guidance they’ve given us … and to me, what’s really been gratifying is seeing the Department of California American Legion Family come out and force and bust it. They’ve put well over 1,000 hours on the float. To see it be transformed from the skeleton that it was to what it is right now, I really can’t wait to see the final product.”
The American Legion’s float will be the third float in the parade and will follow the Marine Corps Band in the parade order. Joining Reistad on the float will be Sons of The American Legion National Commander Greg “Doc” Gibbs and Auxiliary National President Kathy Dungan.
Four Medal of Honor recipients — Hershel “Woody” Williams, Ron Rosser, Walter “Joe” Marm and Britt Slabinski — will also be riding the float, as will a representative from each of the five military branches. Also included will be an American Legion Rider, youth program alumni such as 2018 American Legion Boys Nation President Joshua Cheadle and Auxiliary Girls Nation president Hoda Abdalla, a Samsung American Legion scholar, and Olympic gold medalist and American Legion air-rifle champion Jamie Corkish.
“I think it’s a rolling shrine to our long history,” Reistad said. “I think every one of those elements plays a part in our 100 years of service. We’re a family. The float represents our values as a family organization. Everybody plays a role in that.”
The American Legion centennial float will travel the 5 1/2-mile parade route filled with hundreds of thousands of spectators and millions of viewers watching live on television.
“You’ve got a national audience,” Reistad said. “You’ve got an international audience, as a matter of fact, that’s going to be watching this. For us to be (the fifth unit) in the parade … I think it’s a place of honor to be up that high. And it’s an honor for me to be able to stand and represent the organization as part of a great year.”
When: The broadcast begins at 8 a.m. PST (11 a.m. EST) on Jan. 1.
How to watch: The Tournament of Roses Parade will be broadcast on ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel, KTLA 5, RFD TV and Univision. Check your local broadcast listings for more information.