When the 25th Orlando Citrus Parade presented by Delta Air Lines steps off on Dec. 30, one of the most anticipated and striking elements will be the seven Citrus Floats.
These massive entries are decorated entirely by fresh Florida oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are colorful reminders of the role citrus has played in the Sunshine State’s history.
But few people know the background story behind the floats. Namely how do the tens of thousands of pieces of fruit transform into an awe-inspiring float? The answer is simple, volunteers – and lots of them.
In the four days leading up to the parade, approximately 500 volunteers representing 30 different organizations will meet at the Orange County Convention Center, where they will spend countless hours attaching the fruit to the different floats with rubber bands.
The groups include civic organizations, youth groups, and private businesses. The roster of volunteers is extremely diverse as girl scout troops, SeaWorld employees, city jail corrections officers and Macedonia Baptist Church Youth Group could be working side by side on any one of the given days leading up to the parade.
Volunteers work in four-hour shifts each day, with many organizations volunteering for more than one shift and one day. To keep things spirited, Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) theme’s each day with such names as Family Fun, Tropical Oasis, and Team Up.
“Without question, the citrus floats would not exist without the efforts of our volunteers,” FCSports Parade Manager Julia Carlson said. “I think a lot of groups become involved as a community service project, but end up having so much fun they keep volunteering year-after-year. Still, it is a lot of work and we can’t thank them enough for their efforts.”
One heartwarming aspect of the floats is that the fruit is never wasted. After the parade, volunteers carefully remove the citrus. It is then donated to Second Harvest Food Bank, a Central Florida organization that provides food to the needy.