By Susan Motander
Everyone celebrates the New Year in their own way. Some of us watch the ball drop in Time Square at 9 p.m. and go to sleep. Others gather with fellow Monrovians on Myrtle Avenue and Library Park to see the year end and another begin. And then there are those who hit the sack early so they can get up before dawn and be along the Rose Parade route in their assigned positions — all to ensure that the annual Tournament of Roses Parade is as close to perfect as possible.
One such hearty volunteer is Monrovia’s own mayor pro tem, Larry Spicer. For the last four years he has been a member of the Tournament of Roses, a “white suiter” as they are affectionately known. More than 900 volunteers work hours to put on the grandest parade of them all — and in our back yard.
Spicer explained that for his first few years he was assigned to welcome and assist dignitaries around Tournament House (formerly the Wrigley Mansion) on Orange Grove Avenue and help with the formation of the parade. This year he had a new responsibility as part of the showcase of floats for post parade viewing. He had more than a dozen floats in his area and the position required not just one day of work but three.
Asked what he liked best about volunteering with the Tournament, Spicer was quick to explain that people are the best part, meeting them talking to them. “People always ask me what I do and I am proud to say I am the Mayor Pro Tem of Monrovia. If they are local they always talk about Old Town and the Friday Night Festival. I let them know I represent Monrovia.”
Over the last few years there are certain moments that stand out for the Monrovian. A few years ago he met an Air Force General who had himself once piloted the B2 bomber, the flyover of which is a much beloved beginning to the parade. When Spicer explained his son was at the Air Force Academy, the general gave him a B2 commemorative pin — now a valued item for the younger Spicer.
As Spicer explained, it is the people who matter, not just with whom he volunteers but also those he meets along the way. This year was especially good because he was able to use more of his skills as his position in the showcase required that he multi-task; he had to coordinate all the volunteers with whom he worked including college interns and high school students.
“I made certain I arrived early each day so that I could walk my area to be sure everything is ready. That is where my military experience comes in handy… that and the necessary sleep deprivation,” he explained.
This year he also had one of those special moments that make volunteering so rewarding. A man from New Orleans approached him in the float viewing area after the parade and explained that he and his wife had flown to California to get married on New Year’s Eve and watch the parade the next day. He asked Spicer if it was possible to get one of the roses from a float so his wife could have a keepsake from the experience.
Spicer asked one of the volunteers from Honda for a rose for the man. The Honda guy gave not one but three roses to pass on to the newlyweds. Apparently they really are helpful.
Asked for the best thing about being a Tournament member, Spicer’s response was immediate. “It’s about the people, the ones I meet and those I work with.”
Asked what the worst thing was, he said there wasn’t one. Even getting up at o-dark-thirty was not a negative in his mind.
Asked how the whole experience was he said simply, “It makes you feel on top of the world.”